Small tweaks now can potentially result in a big payoff down the line
Provided by Daniel Kelley & Kevin Guarino – Our Friends at Clover Leaf Financial, LLC
Figuring out Social Security can sometimes feel like a big puzzle. With so many rules, it’s easy to miss out on getting the most from your benefits. But with some smart planning, you can make sure you’re getting the best deal. Here’s a closer look at five key ways to boost your benefit:
- Understand the Basics of Social Security
The Foundation of Social Security: Social Security, a cornerstone of retirement for many Americans, is primarily funded through payroll taxes. Established during the Great Depression, this program was designed to provide a safety net for retirees. Over the years, its scope has expanded, now encompassing disability benefits, survivor benefits, and more.
Earnings and Benefits: Your Social Security benefit is a reflection of your earnings history. The more you’ve earned (subject to certain limits) and the longer you’ve been in the workforce, the more substantial your benefit will be. It’s essential to regularly check your Social Security statement to ensure your earnings are accurately reported, as any discrepancies can affect your future benefits.
- Indexing for Inflation
Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA): One of the standout features of Social Security is its built-in protection against inflation. Each year, benefits are adjusted based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This ensures that the purchasing power of Social Security benefits doesn’t erode over time.
Planning with COLA in Mind: Being aware of these adjustments can significantly influence retirement planning. For instance, if you’re considering when to claim benefits or how other income might impact your overall financial picture, understanding COLA can provide a clearer view of your future finances.
- Work for at Least 35 Years
The Calculation: Your Social Security benefit is calculated based on your 35 highest-earning years. If your working years fall short of 35, the calculation will factor in zeros for the missing years, which can substantially reduce your benefit.
Strategies for Maximizing Benefits: If you’re approaching retirement and have less than 35 years of earnings, consider working a few more years to replace those zero-earning years. Even if these additional working years don’t fall into your highest-earning 35 years, they can still replace zero-earning years, leading to a higher overall benefit.
- Consider Delaying Your Benefit
Early vs. Delayed Retirement: While the allure of claiming benefits at the earliest age of 62 might be tempting, waiting can significantly increase your monthly payout. For every year you delay past your full retirement age (which varies based on your birth year), your benefit grows by a certain percentage, up to age 70.
The Long-Term Impact: The decision to delay can result in tens of thousands of additional dollars over your lifetime. For example, if your full retirement age is 66 and you wait until 70 to claim benefits, you can receive 132% of your primary insurance amount. This strategy is especially beneficial if you’re in good health and anticipate a longer lifespan. It is however, important to consider more than just the dollar amount. If you are taking more income from other retirement assets simply to delay and increase your social security benefit you may end up in a net negative regardless of how long you live. This is why it important to make sure your SSA benefits are calculated for your specific financial and lifestyle goals.
- Be Aware of Spousal and Survivor Benefits
Spousal Benefits: Marriage brings with it certain Social Security advantages. Even if one spouse has never worked, they might be eligible for benefits based on the working spouse’s record. This can be up to 50% of the working spouse’s benefit at full retirement age.
Survivor Benefits: If a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse can receive benefits based on the deceased’s record, especially if it results in a higher benefit than their own. Understanding the ins and outs of survivor benefits, including when to claim and how it interacts with your own benefit, can be crucial.
Conclusion: Social Security, while complex, offers a multitude of avenues to maximize your retirement income. By delving deeper into its mechanisms and making informed decisions, you can ensure a more robust financial foundation for your golden years.
If the thought of Social Security leaves you feeling daunted or uncertain about the optimal strategy for your unique situation, don’t hesitate to seek guidance. As a dedicated financial planner, I specialize in tailoring personalized resources and strategies to meet your needs. Together, we can navigate the paths of Social Security, ensuring you’re well-positioned for a prosperous and secure retirement.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
The professionals at Clover Leaf Financial, LLC. are registered representatives with and securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC.
· Not FDIC/NCUSIF Insured · No Bank/Credit Union Guarantee · May Lose Value ·Not a deposit · Not insured by any federal government agency