Will Social Security Be Around When I Retire Plan Your Social Security

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Plan Your Social Security

Social Security – You’ve invested in it and want to maximize your returns. So, don’t let this part of your retirement plan go… unplanned.

Regardless of whether or not you think you’ll be here or need it, it makes sense to plan for Social Security. It’s a benefit paid to you or your partner, and you’d be foolish not to try to make the most of it.

You’ll have to make some choices about when to start collecting Social Security that can have a real impact on your income in retirement.

According to a recent study by the Pension Research Council of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, many of the 46 million baby boomers approaching retirement feel unprepared to tackle the complexity and range of choices to secure their financial future. Hence, having a financial advisor can be of great help. But your retirement planning puzzle cannot be solved.

In fact, another study by the Pension Research Council found that even those who use a professional financial advisor claim benefits at age 62, much earlier than many experts believe. This is one mistake that can dramatically reduce your benefits. The negative impact is even greater for women because, on average, they live longer than men and rely on Social Security for a larger portion of their retirement income.

The most effective way to help retirees is through education and advice, including information about when to claim Social Security and how to optimize those benefits. Financial advisors are an important channel to convey this message to retirees, the study found. They have a high level of knowledge of financial issues, the information their clients need, and most likely have established a level of trust with their clients that will help turn advice into action.

Most financial advisors consider it their job to educate clients about how Social Security fits into their retirement finances, but the commitment varies depending on where you go for advice. For example, independent financial advisors (93 percent) were more aware of their responsibility to address social security than bank representatives (80 percent).

Most consultants believed that they should help clients make decisions when to claim Social Security benefits, but there were differences. Broker dealers (68 percent) were most likely to advise clients on making a claim, while life insurance agents (62 percent) were least likely to do so.

And of course, how much did the advisors surveyed for the study think they knew about Social Security benefits. Nearly all advisors (93 percent) felt they were “knowledgeable,” 22 percent described themselves as “very knowledgeable,” and 71 percent said they were “somewhat knowledgeable.” Most didn’t think they were experts.

Less than half (44 percent) of advisors felt they were “knowledgeable” about how retirement benefits increase with age, and slightly less than a quarter (24 percent) felt they were “very knowledgeable” about how spousal benefits work. Apparently, those rules are quite complex.

And most advisers knew little about the retirement earnings test. Never heard of this? We assure you – you are not alone!

Three-quarters of consultants discussed Social Security with most of their clients, but in many cases it was the client who brought up the topic. Counselors raised the issue at age 55, while clients did not raise the issue until a median age of 60. Because the time horizon is important in the planning process, the sooner you start planning, the more effective the plan will be. So, take this to heart – start your own research and conversations with your advisor early.

A frequent topic of discussion between advisors and clients was Social Security solvency. While some advisers told clients to count on receiving all their planned benefits, others were less encouraging. Of course, there is currently no “real” answer to this question, so a conservative estimate is probably best for planning. Under current law, Social Security is expected to pay scheduled benefits until 2037. Then, taxes may increase, benefits may decrease, and initial benefits may be delayed. No one knows for sure.

There are strategies for maximizing Social Security benefits. And things like your health, when you plan to retire, household assets, your desired lifestyle, projected benefits and your spouse’s age all come into play. Then add tax to the mixture. Yes, you need a plan if you want to get the most out of your benefits.

It is clear that there is still work to be done on both the consumer and consultant side to learn more about choice. SSA.gov, the Social Security website, is definitely a resource, although many people say it’s difficult to navigate. There are also other online resources including retirement savings calculators that cover Social Security benefits.

We recommend a “holistic” approach to retirement planning so you get all of your benefits and the best possible strategies for saving. By including Social Security and Health Care with your savings and any employer-provided benefits, you can increase the likelihood of your retirement plan’s success.

So, go into the planning process with your eyes open. If you’re working on it, start your research early. It’s also a good idea to enlist the help of a planner or advisor you feel you can trust. Ask questions until you are comfortable that you have obtained important facts to make a decision. And even then, it’s a good idea to do your own research before you make that decision. Being an active participant in your own retirement planning will definitely help you get the best results.

And if you’re planning for retirement, don’t forget to factor in healthcare costs. People 65 and older can find reliable information about Medicare and Medigap insurance, including help comparing the prices of plans in your area.

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