On This Episode
This is part 3 of our social security conversation. This week we talk about what aspects you should consider before you decide to start taking social security. Everybody’s situation is different, but this may help you get a better idea on when you should start reaping your benefits.
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PFG Private Wealth Management, LLC is an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. The topics and information discussed during this podcast are not intended to provide tax or legal advice. Investments involve risk, and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial advisor and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed on this podcast. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Insurance products and services are offered and sold through individually licensed and appointed insurance agents.
Here is a transcript of today’s episode:
Speaker 1: Thanks for tuning in to a another edition of the Retirement Planning – Redefined Podcast. As always, I’m here with John and Nick, Financial Advisors at PFG Private Wealth. Nick, what’s going on buddy? How are you this week?
Nick: Doing pretty well. How about yourself?
Speaker 1: I’m hanging in there, not doing too bad. Are you guys still sweltering down there? We are here in North Carolina. It’s been pretty dang hot the last few days, and it’s in October, so we’ll see how this plays out. You guys still burning up?
John: Yeah, we had two days of a little less humidity.
Speaker 1: Uh-huh (affirmative).
John: And then it just came right back.
Nick: Yeah, yeah, the humidity dropped off and it kind of was a little bit of a tease like taking the dog out in the morning. It was like, “Okay, this is not bad.” Especially even in the shade during the day. But came back with a vengeance the last few days. So hopefully we kind of get back to the… The heat, I don’t mind as much as the humidity, but winters.
Speaker 1: Yeah. When you got to use a butter knife to cut the air, because it’s so thick with moisture and whatnot. Now that was Nick’s voice. The other voice is John’s. John, how you doing buddy?
Speaker 1: Hey, well that’s good. Oh great. I like that. Well, very good. Well good. Then you’re going to be ready to roll on this conversation. It’s part three of our ongoing chat about social security. And we covered a few things the past couple of weeks. If you’ve been listening to us, we talked some mechanics, we’ve talked taxation, we’ve talked funding, some overviews of some of those things there. And if you did not listen, well go sign up at the website. It doesn’t cost you anything to subscribe to the podcast. So go to pfgprivatewealth.com, that’s pfgprivatewealth.com. That’s their webpage. You’ll be able to find lots of things about the team, as well as the podcast. And subscribe to that on Google or Apple or whatever you’d like.
Speaker 1: You can also just call them if you ever have questions, or get tripped up and you want to have a conversation. And you should before you take any action. You should always check with a qualified professional like John and Nick. They are financial advisors. (813)286-7776 is the number to reach them at. (813)286-7776. But again, we’re talking social security. We covered a lot of those things. So now let’s talk strategy a little bit, gents. Big question that always pops up, and that’s usually number one for most people is when should we apply for benefits?
Nick: Yeah, so this is always a good one. My dad actually just hit his official social security birthday. He just turned 62, and of course the thing that he wants to do the most more than anything in the world, is start taking income.
Speaker 1: Turn it on. Right?
Nick: And so the first question that we have to anybody that hits 62, and is interested in potentially starting to take their income is, “Do you have any other earned income?” So the social security system is set up where if you have earned income, so earned income specifically on an individual basis, then there is an earnings test on how much you’re making. And if you decide you want to take your social security benefit, whether or not there’s going to be a reduction. So what we mean that is again, using my dad as an example, he’s a retired fireman, he has a small business, so he has some income from the business, but he has a pension.
Nick: So pension income does not count towards this income test. It’s only the earned income that he gets from his business. At the same time, the income that my mom makes as a nurse, does not count towards his test for his social security. So understanding that it’s based upon an individual’s income, and that it’s an individual’s earned income, that limit is about $18,000, 18 to $19,000. It changes a year-to-year and it’s been inflating up.
Nick: So for every dollar that you earn above that amount, they start to reduce your social security benefit by 50 cents. So it’s about a 50% reduction. So what we’ll tell people is, a lot of these other factors start to come into play on whether or not they need the money, what they’re going to do with the money. And we’ll kind of get into some of those details a little bit more. But understanding that there is a penalty, or a reduction in the benefit that you receive if you take it before your full retirement age. And understanding how they calculate that’s really, really important.
Nick: So a really basic example is, if we say that somebody is going to earn $24,000 of income, so they’re going to be about 5,000 over the limit, and there’s going to be a reduction in their social security. That reduction isn’t nearly as bad as somebody that’s maybe earning 40,000, where they’re almost going to zero out their social security benefits. And since they took it early, there is a permanent reduction anyways. So it does become kind of a more complicated response and an answer, but it does help to get people thinking and understanding and kind of strategizing on what makes the most sense for them.
John: So to jump in here, in the year you reach your full retirement age actually that penalty goes away. So basically, let’s say your full retirement age is 67, and you turn 67 in June, once you hit your birthday, you can earn as much as you want. And from that point moving forward, there’s no penalty on any earned income for that individual. And kind of back to what Nick was saying, very important that people do understand that it’s based on the individual’s income and not household. Because I have run into some scenarios where some clients previous to us got some bad advice, and they actually did not take the social security, because an advisor told them it was based on household income. So there was a couple of years that they wanted to take it and they didn’t, because they got bad advice.
Speaker 1: Yeah, that’s not good. So yeah, you want to make sure-
John: No, that’s why Nick kind of stressed that.
Speaker 1: Okay, so let’s talk about 62 as a magic number, first. If you go as soon as you can, Nick, you mentioned your dad. A lot of people do that. They’re like, “I’m going to run right down and turn it on as soon as I can.” That might be the right decision for you, but it may not, because you could be looking at a reduction in your benefit. Correct?
John: Yeah. So I’ll use my parents’ example here.
Speaker 1: Oh go for it.
John: So once they hit 62 they were done. They were done working, they wanted to retire. And we had the conversation of whether they should take it or not. And we decided that it was best for them to go ahead and take it at 62. So the negative to that is you do get a reduction of benefit, which could be anywhere from 70 to 75%, which was okay for them, because they actually had some pension income.
John: So when we were doing their plan, we looked at it and said, “Hey, we’re going to take a little bit of a hit in your guaranteed income from social security.” But they had some pension income, which helped out, which is why we kind of decided for them that it was okay to take. And again, everyone’s situation’s different, but just understand that when you do take at 62, you get a reduction of benefit, and that reduction of benefit is permanent.
Nick: So then kind of going from there, that range between 62, which is when you’re first eligible, up to your full retirement age, which is actually determined by the year that you were born. So for somebody that’s in their early sixties now, their full retirement age is most likely 66. For somebody that might be in the thirties and forties, it’s 67 or later.
Nick: But once you hit that full retirement age and your statement that you receive on an annual basis, or when you log in to see it, it does tell you, that’s kind of the point at which you can receive your full benefit amount. There are no earnings tests anymore, there are way less rules, is kind of the easiest way to think about it. However, let’s say that your situation allows you, maybe you have a younger spouse, and your younger spouse is still continuing to work. Their income still is enough to support the household and you don’t need additional income. You can let your benefit continue to grow, and it grows by 8% simple interest. And that number caps out at age 70.
Nick: So once you get to age 70, there is absolutely no point in waiting any longer, because your benefit does not grow at all. So an important thing to kind of take into consideration as far as that goes, is we’re going to have a separate session on spousal benefits and widow benefits. However, spousal benefits do not grow with those 8% increases. Spousal benefits do maximize at the full retirement age. So again, we’ll kind of get into more detail on that a little bit later on. But just wanted to make sure that we took that into consideration. And one of the most common questions that we’ll get, “Should I take it at 62 should I take it up for retirement age? What about in-between?”
Nick: So there isn’t a hard difference between 62 and full retirement age. The benefit will continue to increase. So we’ve used my dad as an example a few times. So although he just turned 62, we looked out over the next year, and we realized that the need to take the benefit this year didn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense, but we’re going to revisit it next year. So this is something that you can kind of reevaluate on a year-by-year basis, or really even a month-by-month basis. Essentially what happens is that benefit grows by about a half percent per month. So that can does continue to grow. So it’s not like if you wait between 62 and 63 you’ve been penalized or anything like that. It is something that does continue to grow.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
John: So one of the main questions that we get when deciding is really the break even point. So deciding, “Hey, if I take at 62, I’ll have this amount of money versus full retirement age.” And the break even is usually mid to late seventies, let’s just say 76 to 77 years old. Looking at it in a vacuum, without any other parts, that’s when people determine, “Hey, if I waited until 60, my full retirement age, once I hit 77 it would’ve been better to wait for that.”
John: But one thing to consider is that, just looking at a vacuum, really we’re missing a lot of key points here. So a reason to take at 62 could be health. So as far as, I’ll use myself as an example, because I’m currently injured with my back. But in my twenties, I could do a lot more than I can in my thirties. So someone might want to take it at 62, so they can enjoy between 62 and 75, and have more money to go on vacation. So those are things that you really need to consider besides the break even point.
Nick: Yeah, I would say from a strictly planning standpoint. So if we take out some of the lifestyle decisions that factor into this, if we take a look at it from the standpoint of strictly finances, there tends to be, dependent upon people’s situation, there tends to be kind of a magic number for the nest egg. So in other words, dependent upon how much people need to take out of their nest egg, if waiting on social security forces somebody to take an unreasonable or an unsustainable, which are all right from their nest egg, we’re probably going to go ahead and have them take the social security.
Nick: Because maintaining that nest egg for as long as possible is really important. And if that number isn’t there, if they just for whatever reason haven’t been able to save, or get to that number that’s right for their specific situation, a lot of times taking that social security is going to alleviate the pressure on the nest egg. It’s going to help us sustain through maybe some negative points of the market, and allow them to live the lifestyle that they want to live in that early five to eight year first portion of retirement. So that’s a huge driver from a financial standpoint, to kind of make the overall plan work.
Nick: Things like life expectancy come into play, although that can be a little bit tricky from, we’ll kind of refer to that as the crystal ball planning. Where we try to plan for a long period of time not maybe what happened with your parents or things like that. So there are a lot of different factors but that helps kind of bullet point some of the key things to consider when trying to decide on when to apply.
John: Yeah, no I just kind of jumped in with something that just popped into my head about something to consider where, client situation, where they had a really good strong social security benefit and pensions, but they really didn’t have a lot of liquidity. So not a lot of assets.
John: So strategy that we’re using for them, is we’re actually taking the social security once they hit the full retirement age, because they are still working. And instead of letting that benefit build up, we’re actually saving that into some type of retirement plan. So when they do fully retire, in this situation it’s age 70, they’ll actually have some type of nest egg that isn’t just income. It’s actually a nest egg they can pull on. So we are taking the benefit, full retirement age, but we’re actually saving it to provide some liquidity in retirement.
Nick: Yeah. And so maybe a real world example of that is we work with a decent amount of local faculty at some of the local universities, and their plans have structures where they can save money into the different retirement plans. So in that scenario, maybe they have a pension, they’re going to have a good pension when they retire, they have social security benefits. It’s going to cover their expenses. But because of those things they save, let’s just call it maybe like $200,000 into their nest egg.
Nick: So what we can do is turn on that social security, and bump up the savings that they’re putting into their 403(b), or some other sort of employer-based retirement account, offset the taxes from an income tax standpoint as they’re taking that. Because again, going back, that benefit’s going to be taxable or at least includable in their taxes, offset that, build that up, try to really bump up their nest egg by another hundred, hundred plus thousand dollars a year. And give them a little bit more peace of mind when they retire.
Speaker 1: Well, really, really good information here on this podcast edition of Retirement Planning – Redefined. We’ve been talking about really kind of the strategy of taking social security. This is part three of our ongoing series of social security. When should you apply for benefits? A lot of good information covered. The great thing about a podcast is if you’re going through and you’re listening to it and you didn’t quite catch it, or you’re not quite following, you can always back up and listen to it again. Unlike a radio show or something where you just kind of catch it in passing. And especially easier if you subscribe to them.
Speaker 1: So make sure you go ahead and subscribe to the podcast at pfgprivatewealth.com. That is pfgprivatewealth.com. But if social security is tripping you up, do not feel alone. It definitely can be that way for a lot of folks. Reach out and call John and Nick and have a conversation with them. Get yourself on the calendar at (813)286-7776. That’s their number if you’d like to reach out to them. (813)286-7776, serving you here in the Tampa Bay Area, at PFG Private Wealth, where John and Nick are financial advisors.
Speaker 1: And with that we’re going to say goodbye this week for the podcast. Tune in next time, when we’re going to continue on with social security, and talk about spousal and widow benefits in part four of our ongoing social security series here on Retirement Planning – Redefined with John and Nick, financial advisors at PFG Private Wealth. Boys, I’ll see you next time. Thanks so much for being here and for everybody listening we’ll talk to you next time here on the podcast.