How Many Thousands of Dollars Will YOU Leave on the Table?
What if you discovered that what you don’t know about Social Security could result in your walking away from potentially thousands of dollars of additional income? It happens to others, literally every day.
One recent study reports that anywhere from 46% to 59% of those who became eligible during the last two decades claimed Social Security retirement benefits as soon as they reached age 62. But filing too early is not the only way you can leave money on the table.
Many people view the claiming decision as a simple one: should I take it now or should I wait? If I delay claiming benefits, how long would I have to live before I would “break even” compared to claiming earlier? Very often the decision only seems simple because an individual or couple is unaware of multiple options, many of which are not common knowledge, that may be available to them.
In fact, the Social Security retirement system is NOT simple. Married couples can often employ a variety of claiming strategies to enhance their retirement income; special options may come into play if you were previously widowed or divorced. However, if you don’t know about these options you cannot make informed decisions that could help you and your spouse avoid losing thousands of dollars of income to which you might otherwise be entitled.
Consider this situation:
When we first began talking about Social Security, Richard was a successful attorney, still active in private practice and earning a very good living. He was 67, and had already made the decision to delay claiming his benefits until age 70. His wife Jayne was approaching 62, wanting very much to retire and begin collecting her benefits as soon as possible. One strategy I showed them, and which they implemented as soon as Jayne reached 62, allowed them to do exactly what they had wanted to do – and it provided them with more than $15,000 of additional income over the first 30 months. They would have totally missed this opportunity but for a casual conversation that led them to seek my advice.
My work helps real people make informed decisions about their Social Security benefits: married people and divorced people; widows and widowers; spouses who are the same age and spouses who are years apart; people who “don’t need” Social Security and people who depend on it to make ends meet; people who are eligible for the maximum retirement benefits Social Security has to offer, as well as stay-at-home moms and “house spouses” who don’t have enough Social Security “credits” to qualify for benefits on their own work records.
My process is simple: I gather relevant information about you and your spouse, or former spouses; learn a little bit about your financial needs and goals in retirement; and put together a comprehensive analysis illustrating the most promising options available to you. I then encourage you to share my work with your financial advisor so that your Social Security claiming decisions can be made in the larger context of your overall retirement income and survivorship planning.
 Social Security Claiming: Trends and Business Cycle Effects by Owen Haaga and Richard W. Johnson (Published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2012)