Social Security requires a strategy too
Understand the retirement benefit your clients have earned over a lifetime of work.
Social Security offers a variety of options for retirees with plans they can tailor to best meet their personal needs.
Transamerica’s Field Guide to Social Security helps answer some of the most common questions about Social Security benefits, making it a great resource for you and your clients as they prepare for retirement.
Download our Field Guide to Social Security and Planning Workbook.
Social Security at every age
Thinking about Social Security now provides options later.
Your clients are working hard, earning benefits that will reward them in the future. Help them imagine a secure retirement they can start shaping today. Sit down with your clients and help develop a retirement strategy. How much income will they want? How much income will Social Security alone provide? You can calculate their anticipated Social Security benefits at SSA.gov/myaccount.
When to claim benefits is the most common question clients ask.
It’s one of the most important financial decisions they’ll make as they build their retirement plan. Be sure to talk with them and their spouses about their individual circumstances. Do your clients want to continue working? Will they be able to, due to health or other considerations? Have they saved enough to realistically meet their goals? Don’t let retirement sneak up on them, take charge and help them make an informed decision.
Your clients can file for benefits as early as age 62.
That will start their monthly benefits at the earliest possible date, but it will cost them. By filing before Full Retirement Age, their monthly benefits can be reduced as much as 30% – for life. Waiting a year or two can substantially increase their monthly benefits. Even delaying a month can make a difference.
Make sure they understand Medicare and FRA
Starting at 65, another government benefit kicks in, whether your clients are still working or not: Medicare, the government health insurance program, and it’s important for them to understand it. If they haven’t filed for Social Security benefits, they won’t be automatically enrolled and they’ll have to do it themselves. If they miss the date to sign up, they could end up with coverage gaps and a costly lifetime penalty. Find out more at Medicare.gov. Many of your clients may also be reaching their Full Retirement Age (67 for those born after 1959, a little sooner for those born earlier.) Talk to them about claiming the full monthly benefit they are entitled to or delaying to watch it increase at about 8% a year until they reach 70.
Questions your clients might ask
Will Social Security still be there when I retire?
Some information claims Social Security is going bankrupt, and most agree there are legitimate concerns about the program’s sustainability. However, there are some misconceptions. Reserves are projected to pay full benefits until 2035, and tax income is projected to cover 75% of benefits from 2035-2091 even if no changes are made to the system. The worry may not come from funding but legislative changes to Social Security itself and that could happen well before age 73 for those over 55. Of course, changes to the Social Security program through legislative action are always a possibility.
What changes should I expect to the system?
There has been much debate over how to make Social Security more solvent, and concrete solutions have yet to be implemented. However, changes that have been discussed include an increase in Social Security tax rates, a higher maximum earnings amount subject to Social Security taxes, an increase in Full Retirement Age (FRA), a decrease in future retirement benefits, and a reduction in the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLAs).*
*Source: Social Security, Actuarial Publications, “Proposals Affecting Trust Fund Solvency,” 2016
When should I file for benefits?
The answer to this question is different for everybody, but it’s important to know your benefit amount will change depending on when you file. You may receive reduced benefits as early as the first month you reach 62, you may receive full benefits at FRA, or you can receive a higher benefit amount if you delay receiving them beyond FRA (up to age 70).
Can I work and still receive benefits?
Yes. However, there are limits to how much you can earn before your benefits will be reduced. If you begin receiving benefits before FRA, you may earn up to $17,040 per year. If you earn more, $1 of benefits will be withheld for every $2 you earn above the limit. If you begin receiving benefits in the year you reach FRA, you may earn up to $45,360 per year, with $1 of earnings being withheld for every $3 you earn above the limit. There is no limit to the amount you can earn if you start receiving benefits at or after FRA.
Can I estimate what my benefits will be?
Yes. Doing so is a crucial aspect of retirement planning. Your estimated benefit is included as part of your annual Social Security statement. You can find this statement online by visiting SSA.gov/myaccount. To create an account, you must create a username and password and provide personal information to verify your identity.
What is the maximum available benefit?
The maximum benefit for 2018 is $2,788 per month at FRA. However, most retirees don’t receive anything close to that amount. The average in 2018 is expected to be $1,404 monthly.
How are my benefits calculated?
The Social Security Administration must first determine you’ve obtained the 40 credits necessary for full eligibility. Usually this amounts to 10 years in the workforce. From there, the SSA calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most and then plugs it into a formula that determines your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). Your PIA, the amount you would receive at FRA, is reduced if you collect prior to FRA and increased if you collect after FRA.
What if I am divorced?
Many who divorced long ago do not realize they are entitled to a spousal benefit if the marriage lasted more than 10 years. Typically, the beneficiary spouse must be currently unmarried. Divorced spouses do not have to wait for their former spouse to file before collecting benefits on his/her record.
Am I entitled to benefits when my spouse dies?
Yes. If you are age 60 or older (50 or older if disabled) you are eligible. If taken at FRA, you are eligible for 100% of your spouse’s benefit amount at the time of death. If taken early, the benefit will be reduced to no more than 71.5% of your spouse’s benefit amount. Family earned income limits apply.
Will I automatically be enrolled in Medicare when I collect benefits?
Enrollment in the federal health insurance programs Medicare Part A and Part B is automatic for those 65 and older who receive Social Security benefits. However, those who are not receiving Social Security benefits must apply on their own. Late enrollment may result in delayed coverage or costly penalties. Visit Medicare.gov to learn more.
Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, legal or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent financial professional for answers to your specific questions.