Ep 60: Top Social Security Myths, Part 2

On This Episode

This is part 2 of our Social Security conversation. We will be debunking the remaining 5 myths on today’s show.

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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:


Marc: Back for another edition of the podcast. This is Retirement Planning redefined with John and Nick from PFG Private Wealth, serving folks all around the area here. So reach out to them on the podcast, pfgprivatewealth.com is where you can find them online for a lot of good tools, tips, and resources. You can subscribe to the podcast, book some time with the team, all sorts of good stuff. Again, stop by the website if you’re not already working with them at pfgprivatewealth.com. And if you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, consider doing so while you’re there. We’re on Apple, Google, Spotify, and all that good stuff. So you can check that out. And this week we’re going to follow up with the second half of our social security myths. We did the first five on the prior episode. You don’t have to have listened to that one to listen to this one, but it certainly isn’t a bad idea to go back and check that one out. So that one came out a little bit earlier in April. So we’re going to drop this one here and get into the second half of this, the next five myths. Guys, you doing all right this week, John? How are you buddy?


John: I’m doing good, having a little contract work done at the house, which is, as you know Mark is –


Marc: Challenging.


John: I’m dealing with that. It’s always a challenge and fun.


Marc: That’s right.


John: Looking forward to the project being complete.


Marc: Yes, we need more contractors, we need more people who are in the trade services. That is for sure as there is a major shortage all across the country, really I think globally actually as well. But Nick, what’s going on with you bud?


Nick: Staying busy for sure.


Marc: Spring is here and the weather’s nice. That’s always good.


Nick: Yeah. Although it has been warmer here than I feel like typical this time of year.


Marc: Could be a hot summer then.


Nick: Yeah. So hopefully it cools down just a little bit for the next month so we can enjoy the end of spring.


Marc: Have an actual spring, not skip it.


Nick: Yeah, that’s all I’m asking for.


Marc: There you go. Well, let’s jump into some myths here and see if we can help some folks out with some more of these. Again, we did the first five, which are kind of the big five I think that many people hear often, but I’ve got some other unique ones as well. So these might appeal to some folks who are thinking about social security or getting close to that age and are wondering about some of these things that they’ve heard maybe online or on the news or whatever. So let’s jump in, talk about a few things guys. Myth number six, out of the total 10 we were doing, you can’t work and receive social security benefits at the same time. I think this myth revolves around the fact that if this applies to people who take it early, because there are some limitations. So Nick, why don’t you break this one down a little bit?


Nick: Yeah, just like everything else, the devil’s in the details. So essentially the way that SSA, Social Security Administration, looks at this is kind of from a tiered perspective. So they break it down in essentially three sections. So from when you’re first eligible which is 62 up through essentially before the year that you reach full retirement age, and then the year that you reach full retirement age has its own section, and then the period of time after your full retirement age. So as an example to bring that all together and make it make sense, you can have income while collecting social security before your full retirement age, but there is a limit. That limit is about $21,000, little over $21,000. And for every $2 that you make over that amount, you have a $1 reduction or penalty on your social security.


Marc: So almost like part-time, you could do part-time work if you took it early, so to speak, right?


Nick: Yeah. And a lot of times that’s kind of the ticket for some people is to work part-time, keep them busy, help them transition into retirement, and to help prevent them from having to dig into their nest egg. They might file and collect social security and those numbers kind of balance out, they have income less than the amount that would cause a penalty, and so it works out for them. In the year that you reach your full retirement age, that amount goes up to about 56,000. So essentially what they’re saying is we understand that birthdays range and that from a calendar perspective it can get a little bit tricky. So they say that you can collect your benefit and earn up to the 56,000 without any sort of penalty. Once you’ve reached your full retirement age, there’s no income limit at all. So you can do a full double dip per se in that scenario.


Marc: Yeah I mean if you make $1,000,000 a year and you’re 69 years old, that’s fine, right? Let it rip.


Nick: Yeah. What you’re giving up per se is the 8% increase per year on the social security benefit. So there is some sort of give up, but whether or not that has a big impact depends on somebody’s situation.


Marc: If you’re waiting till the 70, right?


Nick: Correct. Yeah. If you’re to wait until 70. So some scenarios that we see this work out really well are somebody hits their full retirement age, they plan on continuing to work, but maybe the mortgage isn’t paid off, so they’d like to turn on the social security with the goal of, when they retire at 70, these social security payments that are coming in, will go directly towards paying down the mortgage and they can retire without having a mortgage. Or maybe they’re behind on their retirement funds. And so they want to make sure that they can really maximize retirement savings, so they’ll collect and save it or just put the money away. So it’s like, I’m going to take this benefit, but instead of just spending it, I’m going to go ahead and save it and then I’ve had people say, this is going to be my vacation fund for our first five years of retirement. We’re going to save as much as we can, and then we’ll use that to pay for our vacations for those first five years where we’re most active in retirement, that sort of thing. So you can get strategic, but that’s kind of the breakdown of how it actually works.


Marc: Yeah and John, I think for many people that that’s where that confusion comes in, like my brother, for example, he’s already 65, but he is retiring before full retirement age, so he has to wait, so he can work part-time make up to that limit that Nick was just describing. But I think that’s where the confusion comes in. At least that’s what I’ve seen from my perspective. How about you?


John: Yeah, I’d agree with that. A lot of people confuse 65 Medicare eligible age to full retirement age and social security, so I’d agree with that. Something else that people typically miss with this or maybe just don’t fully understand is that this is based on the individual’s earned income, not household. So I’ve seen some scenarios where someone was thinking about drawing social security, they were retired, the other spouse was not, and I said, well, I can’t draw yet because our income is higher and our household income is much higher. It’s not based on household income, it’s based on the individual’s earned income.


Marc: Yeah, good point. All right, so that was myth number six. Myth number seven, I don’t think I’ve really heard this one before. Social security benefits are only for US citizens. This seems kind of like a no-brainer. That’s basically the case, wouldn’t it be?


John: Yeah this is definitely a myth, it doesn’t come down to whether you’re a citizen or not, it comes down to have you met the requirements to be eligible.


Marc: Okay, which is that 10 years, 40 quarters thing.


John: Yeah, 10 years, the 40 quarters there, and once you hit those, you are eligible for social security.


Marc: I wonder if some of this is for folks who retire abroad, so there’s some confusion there, because I even thought about it myself. My wife and I were joking. We were going to retire and live in Aruba part-time, and I asked myself, I wonder if you live in Aruba, can you still collect social security benefits? And I think if you have dual citizenship, I think you still have to maintain citizenship is my understanding. But it’s certainly something that you can have a conversation. That’s some of the questions that might make more sense when you’re going to the social security office versus saying, Hey, when should I turn it on? They’re probably better equipped to answer questions like that than they are answer questions about when’s the best time for you to activate it.


Nick: Yeah. One example that goes in with that too is you’ll have people that are considered permanent resident alien. So I can even give an example where in my family, my grandparents came from Cuba. My grandfather work was a professor at State University, and he spoke English and Spanish, but my grandmother had different issues and she never fully spoke English, so she never was able to do the citizen test, that sort of thing. But my grandfather was here his whole adult life and paid into social security, and so she was eligible for a benefit as a spouse and she has permanent resident alien status. So there’s different things like that that kind of come into play.


Marc: Yeah certain non-citizens then.


Nick: For sure.


Marc: Yeah. That’s cool. That’s a great example. Thanks for sharing that. All right, so myth number eight. This one is interesting, and I don’t know if this is state by state or why this myth is around, but see what you think about this one. If you have a pension, you’re not eligible for social security benefits. This just seems weird to me. I don’t think that one precludes the other.


Nick: Yeah, so I can kind of explain this as well. So what some states used to do with their pension system, and a lot of times it was, again, in certain states or even certain kind of counties or municipalities in certain states, they would allow, or their structure would be, instead of the person who was working for them paying into social security, they would pay into the pension. And so it was both they and the employer were paying into the pension system in lieu of paying into social security. And there’s a clause for this, what would happen. I know I for sure had some people in Illinois that dealt with this. And so because of that issue, there was this calculation that would offset the amount that they were eligible for social security. And so where people got in trouble would be sometimes what people would do is they would say, I’ll use a teacher for an example. So this whole program is called the windfall provision. And so what they would do was, so say a teacher, they knew that they weren’t going to be eligible for social security because of the way that their pension was structured, so they might work a summer job so that they could start to build in their 40 quarters and be eligible for social security, but they didn’t realize that there was an offset with how this worked. So the windfall provision, or it’s called windfall elimination provision, is something where if this sounds familiar, it’s something that you want to look into. And it was because the main part wasn’t paying into the social security, but unfortunately when they would get the scenario with the second job or something like that, that’s where it would almost penalize them because they would subtract the amount that’s coming from the pension out of the amount that they’d be eligible for social security.


Marc: Interesting. Okay. So the windfall provision, interesting. All right. John, any thoughts on that one?


John: No, run into the same scenario in Massachusetts where I’ve had some clients up there that have paid into the pension system up there, and basically they got reduction of social security benefits.


Marc: So it sounds like it doesn’t preclude you, it just may alter benefits.


John: There’s different situations.


Nick: Significantly. Yeah.


Marc: Okay. Good to know. Interesting. You never know sometimes, there’s always some sort of kernel to these things which kind of gets distorted and pulled out. So again, if you’ve got questions around this, and especially if you’re on a pension, you may want to certainly talk with your financial professional about that. And John and Nick are here to do so. So again, reach out to them at pfgprivatewealth.com. All right. Good stuff. Let’s do myth number nine. Social security benefits, John, are based on your income and assets. This one’s an interesting one, I think because I guess the confusion of thinking, if you have a, I don’t know, whatever your salary is, but then if you have a $5 million home, it’s somehow different than someone who has a million dollar home.


John: Yeah, that’s not the case. I mean, it is based on your earnings, which I guess some people could say, well, is that my income? And we’re going to talk about this later, it’s based on your highest 35 years of earnings.


Marc: But it’s not means tested, at least not now, not yet anyway.


John: Not means tested, but I’m glad you mentioned that. That is something that has been discussed as doing some means testing to basically help the program out where let’s say if you’re above a certain income or asset level where they start to reduce your social security benefit.


Marc: I mean, could you see Elon Musk ever needing or Oprah Winfrey ever needing social security? but technically they’re eligible, right?


Nick: With the means testing, that’s a tricky thing because the way that it goes kind of hand in hand is that people that exceed the cap, which I think right now is around 150,000, something like that in income, they no longer pay into social security. So there’s almost like a built in kind of means testing.


Marc: But doesn’t that have a donut hole, Nick, where it kicks back in again after a certain higher amount, you start paying again after $400,000 or something?


Nick: They’re discussing that, but not currently for social security. And it’s that way for Medicare, so for example, the Medicare portion of the tax is in perpetuity, and then there’s an additional amount over a certain amount of income. So what could be interesting is almost giving people an option of, and again, this is just speculation, but hey, you have the option to over this cap, you can continue to pay social security or have a means test later on when you retire. That’s something that could be interesting, almost like one or the other, or just remove the cap completely and then just have a maximum amount that could be paid out. So going back to what we had talked about in the other session, there’s definitely a way to figure this out, but somebody’s got to have the guts to do it.


Marc: Well for us, regular folk, I guess. So to John’s point, it’s not really based on those things. Not exactly anyway, it’s more based on your work history and your salary through the years, right?


John: Yeah. How many years you’ve paid into it and what those numbers were.


Marc: And so that just walks us into the number 10 here. So we’ll do that one. John, I’ll let you start with it then. So your social security benefits are based on your last jobs salary. And you kind of alluded to it, it’s really based on the highest 30 years, correct?


John: 35 years of earnings.


Marc: Sometimes I hear advisors say, hey, make sure you go to ssa.gov and take a look and make sure that your numbers are being reported correctly. Heard a lot of this during COVID, especially for folks who may have been laid off or things are kind of wonky to make sure those numbers do get reported correctly because that kind of thing can make an impact. And if you think about your highest earning years, John, many of us, that’s going to be between the ages of 40 and 60 or 45 and 65. So you want to make sure those numbers are correct.


John: Yeah, typically those are the highest earning years, and it’s always good to do a checkup every two or three years, especially after you’re hitting the 40-50 mark you really want to take a look at what did they put in there for me last year? I’d say more often than not, it’s accurate. If there are any issues, sometimes we’ll see them with someone that’s self-employed, so this comes always to the person that is self-employed and I don’t want to say determine their W2 income. It’s kind of like, how much income do you want to show for social security when you’re talking to your accountant? But that could be a negative if you’re doing some accountant stuff and showing lower income.


Marc: It could bother you for your earnings later, for your social security draw later on. I think about the highest 35 years when you’re talking about that, you could hear someone saying, well, I don’t remember what I made at Wendy’s when I was 16, 40 years ago. That one probably gets dropped off. So the idea of being the highest, again, 35 years versus maybe that first job way back when.


Nick: Just to kind of add to that context, because that social security cap has continued to go up over time with inflation it’s the highest 35 years in relation to the cap. So that’s something to understand because effectively your income income today, let’s say in theory, for example, $100,000 today compared to $75,000 20 years ago, that 75 may actually be a higher percentage compared to the cap. So there’s a little bit of nuance in there, but that’s just in general, that’s how it works.


Marc: Okay. All right. Well, some good stuff. John, any other thoughts as we wrap up this podcast on Social Security myths? Anything else you’d like to chime in with?


John: No I think we’ve hit all the points. I think we’re good. I think we did a good job debunking all these myths.


Marc: Certainly some good stuff in there. I think there’s a few things that might catch people by surprise. Nick, anything else before we go?


Nick: No, just the additional emphasis that it is a complicated decision and the good part of that is that there’s usually strategy involved and that you can do things to improve the overall planning for yourself. So just like a lot of things, the gift and the curse per se, but we’d rather have people have the ability to be able to adapt their decision making process to help make this a decision that improves their overall situation than be forced to do just the same old thing.


Marc: I like on the prior episode we were talking, John said that you guys can break things down a couple of ways. You can look at social security in a vacuum, but then also look at it as it applies to everything else that you have going on from a retirement standpoint. And I think that’s going to be a real advantage when folks are trying to sit down and figure out the best ways to handle something that can be actually a lot of money. I mean, social security could be a lot of income, total dollars applied to your retirement nest egg. So you certainly want to make sure you’re getting it right, and that’s what the team can help you with. So again, if you got some questions, need some help. As always, we appreciate the time on the podcast, but don’t forget to subscribe to them. And so you can catch new episodes and check out past episodes. But also just in case you need some help, stop by the website and schedule some time. Have a conversation with John, Nick and the whole team there at PFG Private Wealth. Find them online at pfgprivatewealth.com. That’s pfgprivatewealth.com to get started today. A lot of good tools, tips, and resources. And of course you can also, again, find the podcast and subscribe there on the website as well. Find us on Apple, Google, Spotify, under Retirement Planning Redefined. Guys, thanks for hanging out. As always. I appreciate your time. I’ll sign off for us. But for John and Nick, I’m your host, Mark. We’ll catch you next time here on Retirement Planning Redefined.

Ep 59: Top Social Security Myths, Part 1

On This Episode

Have you ever wondered if the Social Security system will run out of money before you retire? Or if claiming benefits as soon as you’re eligible is the best decision for your financial future? In this episode, we’ll be debunking common myths about Social Security and answering the questions you’ve been curious about.

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More Episodes

Check out all the episodes by clicking here.



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:


Marc: Welcome into another edition of the podcast, it’s Retirement Planning-Redefined with John and Nick from PFG Private Wealth. Got a little two-parter going on this podcasting episode. We’re going to spend this one and the next one talking about some social security myths, some of the top social security myths. Some of these certainly, I’ve heard and many of the guys have heard, and maybe even the listeners have heard, but there’s a few in here maybe you haven’t, and hopefully it’ll help you out a little bit if you’ve ever wondered some of the questions or things that we hear on the news all the time. Now we’re constantly making the rounds online. So again, we’re going to break this into a two-parter. So if you have not yet subscribed to the podcast, make sure you do so at pfgprivatewealth.com. That’s P-F-G privatewealth.com. Just hit the subscribe button or heart button or whatever it is on various different apps you might have already on your phone, like Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Google or whatever the case might be in that regard. So with that said, we got a lot to get through. We got five this week and five for the next episode as well, so let’s dive in. Get started. Nick, what’s going on buddy? How are you?


Nick: Good, good. Just staying busy. I had some family in town this weekend, which is nice to visit, which tends to be a trend this time of year.


Marc: Yeah. Yes, we’re taping this right after Easter, so yeah. Yep.


Nick: Yep. And then tax season is always entertaining.


Marc: Oh, busy. Mm-hmm.


Nick: So yeah, so we’re just plugging.


Marc: Good, good, good. John, how are you my friend?


John: Doing good. Doing good. Just celebrated my oldest daughter’s seventh birthday and I’m like, “Man, she is…


Marc: Where does it go?


John: When she hit school, it’s like, “Man, this is going by much faster than I anticipated.”


Marc: Yeah, it always does.


Nick: Yeah.


Marc: Mine is 25. She’ll be home this week, actually, for a couple of days from the Navy. And yeah, I’m like, “God, 25. Really? Stop.”. It only speeds up my friend, so good luck with all that.


John: I believe it.


Marc: But happy birthday to her. All right, let’s get into some social security myths. Neither one of our kids, John, will need this anytime soon, but for a lot of our listeners, social security is certainly a big topic of conversation, whether you’re, I think, you’re 50 plus. I think anything financially related from a retirement standpoint, we start paying a little bit more attention, maybe getting a little bit more nervous about some things that we see in here. So let’s jump in and talk about some of these myths. Number one, whoever wants to tackle this, I’ll let you guys go. The Social Security Administration will help you make the best decision about when you should start your benefit.


Nick: I’ll jump in on this one. Although I have heard some reports from clients, recently, where some of the information and/or slash, I wouldn’t call it advice, but information has been more comprehensive when they’ve had appointments with Social Security. It’s definitely not going to be the primary resource that one wants to use, as far as helping them to make their decision. Ultimately, this is one of those things where the social security decision should be heavily, or for most people at least, is heavily dependent upon the rest of the parts of the planning and the scenario. Is there a pension involved? When is retirement? Is one spouse still working while the other is retired? So there’s a lot of different factors that go into deciding and figuring out which options, scenario are best. And a lot of times, one of the things that’s come up quite a bit, with people, is we try to explain to them that it’s almost a two-part decision, where three to five years out, we have a good outlook and projection of when we expect to take it. But at the same time, in reality, what ends up happening is that the shorter-term, or more of a micro, decision tends to be impacted by factors that come up. So for example, a spouse gets laid off and retirement for them happens sooner than expected, or the market’s going haywire, and we want to dial back on withdrawals that were taken from investment accounts, those sorts of things. So having the ability to be able to pivot is important, but having a broad, overall plan in general when you want to take it is obviously the most important.


Marc: Yeah, and to your point, they just don’t know your personal, complete situation, so they can give you some ideas on, I’m sure, the best overall… Well, I mean not the best overall, but just looking at some of the claiming options that you have available to you, but how that’s going to play with everything else, they’re going to not have any clue to that, because they don’t know your financial situation. Now that’s the first one. Myth number two, John, you want to tackle this one? You won’t get any social security if you’re a stay at home mom. That’s not exactly right either.


John: Yeah. I’ll jump on this one, and then also I want to go back to myth number one. One thing I have also noticed, that people need to be wary of, is calling Social Security and getting wrong information. I’ve actually had multiple calls with clients and the representative didn’t necessarily know exactly, maybe what was being asked and they basically gave the client bad information, where we had to call up together and ask. And it really affected the client’s strategy that they were going to use, because at first they were kind of like, “Well, this is what Social Security told me.”. And we did our due diligence, realized like, “Hey. No, that’s not accurate.”. So we called up once, continued to got bad information, then we had to call back again. There’s actually specialists that we were able to talk to, that basically gave us the right information, which in her case ended up being quite a bit of money that she ended up gaining, by able to do some widow benefits where…


Marc: Oh yeah. That’s good to know.


John: Otherwise, she wouldn’t have known. So yeah, I just wanted to add that in, because I’ve seen it happen a couple of times.


Marc: No, absolutely. Yeah.


John: And as far as not being eligible as a stay-at-home spouse, basically that is a myth. There are spousal benefits and if you qualify for those, you’re eligible to get half of the other spouse’s full retirement benefit. There’s different strategies that one can implement in that situation, but you are eligible for some spousal benefits, even if you were not working and have earned credits into Social Security.


Marc: Yeah, and so I think some of the confusion, and a lot of times how these myths is usually it’s kind of close, but maybe a little off. So if you’re talking about your own individual benefit, you have to work, what is it, 40 quarters I think, through your lifetime, which is 10 years total, in order to qualify. But, to your point, if you’re married, and I think there’s a caveat there too, is it not that you have to be married at least 10 years. Is that what it is to get the spousal?


Nick: Correct. Married 10 years is the case.


Marc: Yeah, so there’s a couple little caveats, but I think that’s how myths get started and get skewed out of proportion. So yeah, if you’re married and you’ve been a stay-at-home mom raising the kids the whole time, you are still eligible for your spouses. So it’s certainly good information to know there as well. All right. Myth number three, you won’t pay taxes on social security, since you already paid taxes on that money when you paid it into the system. Once upon a time, that was true, but it’s no longer true, right?


Nick: Oh yeah. If you want to get somebody fired up, this is the way to do it. Yeah. So what we try to explain to people, is that for most people, most households, kind of middle class and up, about 85% of their social security income is going to be includable in their taxable income. So there’s a chart and it is dependent upon the other income sources that are coming into the household. But, like I said, for the most part, most people are going to have their income, up to 85% of their social security income, includable in the amount of taxable income that they have. So it is important for people to understand that there’s a difference between that, “Hey, it’s taxed at X amount rate.”, or something like that, because there is confusion in there. So that 85% of the number just is tax at whatever effective tax rate they’re in. So for most people, they’re going to fall into the 10 to 12, 13% effective rate. So it’s not a huge overall impact, but because it is considered a payroll tax that funds it, there is a little bit of firing up that happens when, from an emotional standpoint, where the thought process is, “Well, hey, I paid taxes into it.”


Marc: Yeah.


Nick: Yeah.


Marc: I mean it is… I was going to say, just didn’t mean to cut you off, but I think where people also don’t realize this is a good place where strategy comes into play, because how you’re pulling your income, it’s your income levels that’s going to determine how much that this could get hit. So again, social security should be part of an overall strategy and not just, “Oh, I’m pulling money out of X, Y, and Z account and then also I have this social security thing.”. You want them all working together, right?


Nick: Yeah, and the reality is, and people don’t necessarily want to always hear it this way, but the reality is, is that social security payments through your payroll, while you’re working are essentially, I try to tell people, essentially you’re paying into a pension, is kind of what you’re doing.


Marc: Sure.


Nick: So you’re kind of paying it into a pension, so it is done via payroll tax, but in reality that’s kind of what’s happening.


Marc: Yeah. John, anything you want to add on that one?


John: Well, I guess the one thing would be, as you mentioned, strategy. If you find yourself in a position where your social security is going to be taxed, maybe you have to take extra income in a given year, Roth IRA would be a great spot for it, because that does not count towards your modified, adjusted gross income in this case for the calculation.


Marc: So, maybe looking at ways to lower your taxable income limit, so just to help with that strategy?


John: Yeah, yeah. And that’s why it’s important. And if you tune into this podcast, often you hear Nick and I always say, you want to put yourself in a position to adapt to any situation and have balance, so that’s where that’s important, where it’s like, “Hey, I have to take some money out this year. Health, whatever, house.”. As we were chatting offline of house issues and contractors. Roth could be a good spot to take from, where it doesn’t affect your income.


Marc: Okay.


John: To get off-topic, same thing goes with Medicare. As you have too much income, your Medicare premiums might go up, so planning is very important.


Marc: Exactly. Strategy is completely important in how it might affect that particular myth. All right. Let’s do the last two. Here are some of the big ones, and these are the ones that get people most concerned or whatever. Myth number four, there won’t be any social security left by the time you get to retirement. I just don’t feel like this is probably going to… I can’t see any politician standing up there and doing it. It’s too much of a hot potato. They’re going to continue to kick the can down the road, and I think there’s going to be something, in some form or fashion. Could changes be coming? Sure, but the whole concept of it’s just going to go away, just seems like a lot of fluff to me.


John: Yeah, I would agree with that. Changes are already happening. We already see the cap limit for income going towards social security. That’s been increasing. So there are some updates that we see happening, and this is really an actuarial problem, so it’s a matter of just being like, “Okay, this is what we need to do to fix it and it will be fixed.”. What most people… What’s interesting, is I just got a question last week on this from a client, because they read an article about the trust fund will be exhausted between 2032 or 2034, if no changes happen. So their concern was, “Hey, is the money going to be there?”. And the answer is, your benefits will still be coming in, because it’s funded through your payroll, so there’ll be people paying that system, while people are drawing out.


Marc: Right. And we do have a problem there. That is a concern, right? If you look at those numbers, there’s way less people paying in now than people pulling out, which is why some other changes may need to come into play. But yeah, I think that’s where the confusion comes in too.


John: Yeah, exactly. And I believe a couple.. And you can look this up, if nothing changes, there will be roughly a 20 to 24% reduction in benefits, if they don’t change anything. But we feel confident that they’ll make some adjustments to the program-


Marc: Last minute, yeah.


John: … to get everyone whole. But again, it comes back to planning correctly. So, are you positioned yourself to adapt to this, if this were to happen? If social security benefits were to get cut, how does that affect your plan and what are you going to do?


Marc: Yeah. You hear all sorts of strategies out there, Nick, right? I’ve heard the one that if they just eliminate the early, at 62, and even moved it to 64 or just said, “No, we’re just dropping the early and you’re 66 or 67, depending on your full retirement age.”, it could fund it for another hundred years. Then they’re talking about means testing. So there’s a lot of things on the table, they just haven’t pulled the trigger on any way to actually replenish it yet.


Nick: Yeah, it’s pretty frustrating, because like John said, there is kind of a science to calculating this when you’re talking about this many people, from an actuarial standpoint. Literally from, like you had mentioned, increasing the initial, early retirement age from 62 or even starting to phase it in, like they have in the past as far as what they consider full retirement age, starting to move that towards an average of 65 would make a huge difference. Adjusting the cap, as far as the maximum amount of income that you pay into social security on, if they adjusted that up. So it’s frustrating, because like so many other things, and without going on a rant, it tends to be quite political. And unfortunately what tends to happen is instead of it being the small adjustments, that can make a huge difference, what tends to be in the news is more of like, yes or no. Will it be there or will it not? Versus like, “Hey, we can start to just adjust these numbers and make these… People are living longer, so we can figure this out.”.


Marc: Well, the doom and gloom makes a better headline too.


Nick: Yeah, for sure.


Marc: I mean, look at what’s been happening in France for the last month. They’re totally upset over pushing their pension there, which is basically the same thing that we have, back two years. There’s options there, it’s just a matter of what’s going to be acceptable. And I think for many of us, if you’re probably 50 or over, the chances of it affecting you greatly are probably diminished. I can certainly see though, changes to the ages or things like that affecting people. They say, “Okay, born from this date down, for sure you’re going to see some changes.”. So possibility, but just the quote on quote, “Well, it’s empty. It’s gone. No one gets a check ever.”, I think is just kind of silly.


Nick: Yeah.


Marc: All right. Final one guys and this kind of rolls into that prior one, as well. Number five is go ahead and claim it as soon as possible, turn it on as soon as you possibly can. And I think, again, whoever wants to answer this first, but if you need the money, that’s one thing, right? Turning it on, because the strategy makes sense, because you need the money, but turning it on, because you think it’s going to run out is maybe not the best way to look at that.


Nick: Yeah, we tend to agree. Taking it when you’re first eligible is very rarely a best bet. You give up significant benefits by taking it when you’re first eligible at age 62. And it kind of dovetails a little bit into what we had talked about, just on the previous question, where people that were at the point in time where their full retirement age was 65, so 62 is only three years before that period of time, the reduction, which is about a half a percent per month before your full retirement age, it didn’t have as big of an impact. But now with full retirement age, for many people, being 66 and a half to 67, now we’re talking a wider gap of years, four and a half to five years. So that the compounding effect of that early benefit is significant. So it has a really big impact for people that take it really early, when they don’t necessarily have to. And I get more regretful responses from people that took it early, not understanding the full situation, than I do from people that waited and had more of a strategy for when to take it.


Marc: Yeah. Any thoughts on that take it as soon as possible, John?


John: Yeah. I think it comes back to, like we said, what is the person’s situation? I really see situations where if someone doesn’t need it, taking it early makes sense. The only time is if there’s significant health issue or something like that. But then you also have to think about survivor planning. So there’s a lot of variables that you got to think about and does it make sense?


Nick: And just to dovetail off of that, John mentioned the survivor planning, where sometimes, as an example, one person in a couple taking it earlier and using that to leverage the other person waiting much longer, that combination can work out sometimes, work out-


Marc: Yeah, a couple’s strategy.


Nick: … really, really well. Yeah, yeah, so factoring in both strategies, letting one ramp up and using the other one to make it easier on the overall nest egg, sometimes that can make sense, but this is always something that we use. We have different calculators to strategize for social security and that sort of thing, and so we try to be as strategic as possible.


Marc: And John, I think you’re referring to the break point, so you’re talking about when you’re turning it on, you can run some calculations and see what that break even point would be if you turn it on early versus waiting. Obviously health plays a factor, but you guys can kind of stress test those numbers as well to see the best chance or the best option.


John: Yeah, so we have different programs, which is great, where one, we just look at social security in a vacuum and basically it’s, “Hey, let’s look at taking now versus 67.”, if that’s the person’s retirement age, and we can go look at their break even, which typically is mid-seventies in that scenario. Then we have our comprehensive planning tool, which takes into account other factors of, “Well, if you take it early, your investments can build up a little bit longer. What if you take it early and save it, so you can really put in different factors on it.”. But one thing people really think about if they take it early, and we’ve seen this lately, is the cost of living adjustments. So those in the last few years have been pretty significant. So when you take it early, you’re still going to get those cost of living adjustments, but they would’ve been much greater had you waited, because the balance is bigger that you’ll be getting monthly.


Marc: Gotcha. Okay. So again, there’s a lot to the social security strategies, the conversation. These were some of the bigger ones. We’re going to do a second part, with five more myths in a couple of weeks here. So make sure you tune in and check that out. But as always, if you’ve got questions, if you need some help, especially when it comes to claiming strategies and maybe running a maximization strategy to see what the best option’s going to be, don’t just run out and do something. And also don’t treat it as a separate entity from everything else that you’ve set aside for retirement. It really is about them all working together in a cohesive plan. And that’s what John and Nick and the team can help you out with. So if you need some help and you’re not already working with them, jump onto the calendar at pfgprivatewealth.com for a consultation and a conversation. That’s P-F-G private wealth.com. Get yourself some time onto the calendar, subscribe to the podcast. You can do so while you’re there as well, so there’s a little dropdown tab for podcast. We’re on Apple, Google, Spotify, all that good stuff. So again, P-F-G private wealth.com is where you can find them online. And we always appreciate your time here on Retirement Planning-Redefined. For John and Nick, I’m your host, Mark, and we’ll see you next time for more social security myths.

Ep 11: Social Security, Part 5

On This Episode

Today is part 5 of our social security series and we will focus on the survivor benefit option. We will talk about a few situations that can arise and share a couple of client stories that have revolved around this topic.

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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: Back here with us for another edition of Retirement Planning Redefined, the podcast with John and Nick from PFG Private Wealth. Gentlemen, how’s it going? Nick, how are you today, my friend?

Nick: Doing pretty well. How about yourself?

Speaker 1: I’m hanging in there. Not doing too bad. We are into December. Moving along nicely on this. John, how are you doing? You doing all right?

John: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. No complaints. It’s a getting a little cooler here in Florida, which is nice. It’s been been hot, so it’s nice to get a little a cool, no more humidity.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Yeah. Now, as planners, you guys plan a lot of things, but are you the same way when it comes to holiday shopping? Have you kind of gotten some of this knocked out? We’re at about the middle of the month here now in December. So you guys ready to roll for Christmas or are you last minute?

John: I’ll take that one first. No, I do a lot of Amazon shopping [crosstalk 00:00:49].

Speaker 1: Me and you both. But how about you, Nick?

Nick: Anything I can do to avoid going to a store, I do, so the majority of my shopping [crosstalk 00:00:59].

Speaker 1: I think so many of us are that way, right, which obviously we can see in the death of brick and mortar, for sure. But yeah, absolutely. I agree with you there. Well, hopefully, folks, you’re out there getting your shopping done. Maybe you’re checking out this podcast while you’re driving around doing some shopping or walking around in the malls or whatever the case might be. That is kind of the beauty of podcasting. It’s not like traditional radio obviously, so you have more options, and hopefully you’re subscribed to the podcast Retirement Planning Redefined. Do it at Apple, Google or Spotify, and a couple others as well, and you can find the links if you want, and podcast episodes on their website at PFGPrivateWealth.com. That’s PFGPrivateWealth.com.

Speaker 1: All right, part five. I think this is going to probably wrap it up, too, for our series on social security. We’re going to talk about survivor benefits. Guys, give us some things to think about here. Survivor benefits are available to children and surviving spouses, correct?

John: Yeah, so it is available to children and surviving spouses. For today’s session, we’re going to focus more on surviving spouses because that comes into play more when we’re doing retirement planning.

Speaker 1: Okay.

John: So we always like to actually joke around with the survivor benefit. Not many people are aware, but they get a nice $255 lump sum death benefit if the spouse were to pass away.

Nick: Obviously has not been adjusted for inflation.

Speaker 1: Yeah, no, that doesn’t cover much of anything, does it?

John: No, no it doesn’t. But they do get a monthly benefit as survivor and when it comes to planning, that does help out quite a bit when we’re talking about strategies and trying to figure out a plan for a survivor. Kind of some rules that go with that. A survivor can actually start drawing social security at age 60 versus 62, which is kind of the normal first spouse, which we discussed last week.

Nick: It is important to note that as a reminder, even though they’re eligible to draw at 60, there are still the income tests from the standpoint of reductions. So if that person is working, then it may not make a whole lot of sense to get that early.

John: Yeah. What Nick’s referencing, we talked about the earnings penalty if you start taking social security before your full retirement age. That does still apply age 60, so if you’re still working, most likely that will wipe out any social security benefit you’re going to get as a survivor.

John: Some other things to consider, and I’ll kind of give some examples of this. Survivor benefit is not available if someone remarries before age 60, okay, unless of course that marriage ends. So we’ve had situations where we were planning for clients and we were talking about doing some survivor strategies and they actually … Let’s just give an example. They were 57 and were considering getting married and actually deferred their marriage until age 61 to be safe, which I don’t think the spouse is too happy with us on that because it deferred the marriage, but it made sense because we actually get some pretty easy strategies, which we’ll talk about later, to maximize the social security.

Nick: For the widow to the eligible for those survivor benefits, they had to have been married for at least nine months. There’s a caveat to that where the death was an accident, that could come into play. So essentially, that’s pretty lenient, but it is important to understand the nine month rule as well.

John: Yeah. And we stress a lot on just understanding what your situation is. Just kind of give you an example of that, I had a client that thought she’s eligible for social security because she was married, but he passed away when they were within eight months of marriage. And she was shocked [inaudible 00:04:23] the whole time, let’s say the last seven years, she was planning on it and then didn’t qualify for it. So it was shocking, and unfortunately for her, she was hitting 62 so it made a big difference to her overall plan.

Speaker 1: Gotcha. Okay. So good information there. Surviving spouse’s benefit is based on what?

Nick: So essentially kind of the caveat to this is whether or not people have been collecting. So if both spouses are receiving their benefits and there is death, then the surviving spouse receives the higher of the two.

John: Not both.

Nick: Correct. Not both, which some people will be surprised about how that works. But it’s important to understand that they receive the higher of the two, not both. And one of the big factors that gets calculated into the firm calculation of the amount of money that the widow will receive takes into account when the deceased spouse originally claimed their benefit. And it gets a little bit confusing, quite frankly, for most people, but it factors in essentially whether or not they took it before or after their full retirement age. So John will walk us through an example on that. But it is important to understand how this works.

John: Yeah. Again, we like to do everything in the realm of planning. So this is where doing the social security maximization strategy is very important. Social security is a big part of someone’s retirement income. So you want to make sure that you’re making the best decisions available to you, because the last thing you is to look back 10 years ago, it’s like, “Oh, I wish I did this. I could have had X amount of dollars or really been enjoying my [inaudible 00:06:05] a little bit more.”

John: So just going to touch on an example of that. We’ll call them Jack and Jill. We talked about some survivor strategies last week, but let’s say Jack’s up for retirement benefits, 2,400. Doesn’t take it [inaudible 00:06:20] 70. Basically, Jill can jump on and actually take … Let’s increase it to 2,976 increases. That will be her new basically benefit for social security, so she gets a nice increase and that’s where we talked about really trying to protect the spouse and giving them more income for life. And if she tries to draw early, let’s say she takes it at 62, which anytime you draw early, you get reduction of benefit or a reduction based off of now the higher amount that he deferred, which is a nice little caveat. We have to really do some planning for a spouse.

Nick: And one of the things too from a comparison standpoint is when we discuss the spousal benefits and how the spousal benefits do not grow past full retirement age, the death benefits does, or the widow benefit, survivor benefit does grow past [inaudible 00:07:15] age, so another reason why that’s really a big factor.

John: Yeah. And one thing that we’ll always do, if we’re incorporating strategies, you always typically want to delay the higher benefit. So if you’re looking at an opportunity to take a widow’s benefit or my own, rule of thumb, and everyone’s different, but rule of thumb is defer the higher ones. I’ll give my family as an example. My father-in-law, his wife passed away young and basically age 60, he was able to actually draw her social security benefit at 60, which a reduced amount. Most of his income is from real estate and investment income, so an earnings penalty didn’t apply to him. So the plan is he’s taking the widow benefit at 60 and he’s deferring his, and then at full retirement age, he’s going to switch over to his and get his full retirement benefit. So from 60 to 66, he was actually able to get some type of benefit and then at 66, will jump to his own and he gets the full amount.

Speaker 1: Yeah. So there’s some good strategies, some good things to think about, good information here when we’re talking about these survivor benefits. So a couple of final key points or key takeaways, guys, just to think about?

John: Things to consider is a reminder that basically when the person passes away, their social security benefits stop. And if the surviving spouse is going to take one, they’ll take either their own or the deceased spouse, whatever one’s higher, just making sure that it’s important to plan and make sure the strategy is best for you based on your situation. Social security … This is everything, not just survivors … it’s very confusing, and there’s a lot of different things you can do, so if you’re working with an advisor, just make sure that they have the capabilities to stress test your decisions, to make sure you’re making the correct decision based on your situation and not your neighbors or as Nick likes to say, up north, his clients, they’ve talked to their plumber.

Nick: Yeah. Everybody likes to get an opinion from somebody else. We will talk about opinions. But so anyways, I think the biggest kind of overlying thing, and we talk about it a lot, but we can’t emphasize it enough, and even when we do overemphasize it, people still ask, but this is not a decision to be made in a vacuum. So many other factors tie into this decision.

Nick: And even when we plan … As an example, I was walking somebody through a plan this week, and they are three or four years out from retirement, and even though we have a strategy set up for social security in the plan on what we plan to do from a baseline standpoint, they asked and I really had to emphasize that realistically this decision doesn’t really get made until maybe three, six months before their retirement.

Nick: So we may plan for a certain strategy for four or five years, but the importance of planning and updating your plan every single year cannot be understated, because especially with social security, if we’re in the midst of a recession, if we’re in the midst of a 2008, we’re not going to have somebody take a bunch of money out of their nest egg even though over the last five years we planned to do that. We’re probably going to have at least one of them take social security, protect the value of the nest egg, give it time to bounce back and then adjust accordingly. The planning is via kind of a living, breathing thing and we always have to adapt and adjust.

Speaker 1: Nope, I think that’s a great point. We’ve said that many times here on the podcast that you’ve got to have a plan and then you have to realize that that plan needs to evolve much like your life’s going to. A lot of times we kind of get a collection of things. We have some investments, we have some insurance vehicles, we think about social security. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a pension and you say, “Okay. Well, I’ve got this collection of things. I’m good to go. I have a retirement plan.” No, you have a collection of things. So pulling them all together in a full retirement plan is really important.

Speaker 1: That’s what John and Nick do every day at PFG Private Wealth, so give them a call if you’ve got questions or concerns. Get on the calendar at 813-286-7776. That’s 813-286-7776. Don’t forget to go to the website, PFGPrivateWealth.com. You can always subscribe to the podcast and get new episodes, check out past episodes, things of that nature on Apple or Google or Spotify. So check them out online as well@pfgprivatewealth.com and also share the podcast with folks that you think might benefit from it as well.

Speaker 1: This has been Retirement Planning Redefined. Thanks so much for staying tuned into the show. John. Nick, thanks for your time, as always. I hope you have a happy and safe holiday and we’ll talk actually I think in 2020.

Nick: Sounds good.

John: All right.

Speaker 1: You guys-

Nick: Thank you.

Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. Take care and enjoy the holidays, everybody, and we’ll see you next time right here on Retirement Planning Redefined.

Ep 10: Social Security, Part 4

On This Episode

Today’s show is part 4 of our social security discussion. Our topic today is spousal benefit options. John and Nick will walk us through the ins and outs of this facet of social security and offer their advice.


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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:

Mark: Hey everybody, welcome into another edition of Retirement Planning Redefined. Thanks as always for checking out and tuning into the podcast with John and Nick, financial advisors at PFG Private wealth. Gents, what’s going on? John, I’ll start with you. How are you buddy?

John: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. How are you doing Mark?

Mark: I’m hanging in there. How’s the little one’s doing? I know they, you had some cold running through the house. Everybody getting better?

John: They’re getting much better, which is good. No more getting coughed in my face a lot less this week, so yeah, that’s a good thing.

Mark: And Nick, how are you my friend?

Nick: Good, good. Looking forward to the holidays coming up here and all kinds of good food.

Mark: Oh yeah, yeah. Are you a Thanksgiving kind of guy?

Nick: I have become more so after my brother started deep frying turkeys a couple of years ago.

Mark: Okay, good. So no YouTube videos of that now, so just be careful. We don’t want to see any flying turkeys.

Nick: He’s got it all under control.

Mark: Fantastic. Awesome. Yeah. At the time of this podcast taping it is just about Thanksgiving. It’s just about here on us. And so we’re going to continue on with our a multi-part series we’ve been doing about Social Security. So hopefully you’ve been checking these out and if you have, great, if you have not, make sure you go to the podcast page, you can find it on their website at pfgprivatewealth.com that’s P F G private wealth.com and you’ll find the podcast page. You can subscribe to it on Apple or Google or Spotify. I think there’s other couple of choices there as well.

Mark: So make sure you do, a lot of good content that we’re discussing. This is a multi-part series all around Social Security and part four here is going to be on Social Security, spousal benefits, not deep frying turkeys that’ll come another day, but a Social Security spousal benefits. So guys, let’s get into this and just kind of break down some information for us on, I guess, what we’re entitled to or how this whole thing kind of works.

Nick: Sure. So just kind of a recap on, you know, how eligibility wears for Social Security. Essentially somebody needs to work, you know, for 40 quarters, pay payroll taxes for those 40 quarters and they become eligible for their own benefit. However, you know, one of the common questions that we may get is one spouse stayed at home, one spouse worked. The spouse that stayed at home didn’t get their 40 quarters. And they want to know are they eligible for any sort of benefit.

Nick: So it’s important to understand that, you know, as long as the couple is married, the person that has not qualified for the benefit is eligible for a spousal benefit. And that spousal benefit is essentially calculated by looking at the full retirement amount benefit for the spouse that was working and multiplying by 50%. So, that’s the starting line. That’s kind of how you understand how they calculate that. And the reason that they did create that was understanding that households, you know, it’s not always cut and dry from the standpoint of one spouse is working. There’s obviously value to the other spouse staying home, helping to raise a family and they want to protect that spouse in situations like divorce or other sorts of scenarios by providing them with this kind of caveat for how the benefits work.

Mark: Okay. And yeah, so the simple way to break it down. So give us some more, John, give us some more things to think about here when we’re talking about the eligibility of spouses, maybe some rules, things of that nature.

John: Yeah. So basically, some of the rules before you can collect a spousal benefit, the primary worker must have filed. So wait until the spouse actually draws and then you can go ahead and take your spousal benefit. Spouses can actually start taking it at age 62, that’s the soonest that you can start taking.

Nick: So a kind of a good example of that is, so let’s say, Mr. Smith has been the worker and Mrs. Smith stayed at home with the family and raised a family. And a couple of years ago, two years ago, she started working, you know, so she’s not eligible for her own benefit. So Mr. Smith is going to continue to work and Mrs. Smith is trying to figure out, “Hey, I’m also 62, can I file for benefits?” So the answer is not until Mr. Smith essentially retires and fights for his benefit. So that’s where the restrictions on the ages kind of come to play.

Nick: And when John referred to that primary worker must filed for their benefits, there used to be some other rules in play where you can kind of navigate around, but they really cut down and things are a lot more restricted than they used to be.

John: Yeah. And just to kind of give some numbers to that, let’s say Mr Smith’s full retirement benefit was 2,400, Mrs Smith’s spousal benefit would be, as Nick mentioned, 50% of that sort of 1200. And again, so her spousal benefit is based off of his full retirement amount benefit and not what he actually gets. So example of that would be, you know, when she goes to draw, let’s say if he’d started taking early and he get his full 2,400, she’s not penalize by that. Her 50% is still the 1200, assuming she draws at her full retirement age.

John: If she decides to take early at 62 she will actually have a reduction of her spousal benefit.

Nick: It is important for people to understand that, you know, there’s the dates on when people start to receive the benefits are calculated, or factored in I should say, for each person. Though it factored in potentially when Mr. Smith files and starts collecting and it’s also factored in when Mrs. Smith files and starts collecting. And so there’s a lot of different variations on how that works. And because there are some different variations, we typically recommend to people that, you know, I was helping you kind of walk through the different, let’s test out different scenarios and figure which one makes the most sense because there are so many factors that go into the decision.

Nick: We understand a lot of people like to just, you know, they want a cut and dry answer and unfortunately or fortunately, the positive to there not being a cut and dry answer is that, you know, oftentimes they can be strategic and find something that works better for them and if it were cut and dry. But it does take a factoring in a lot of other things to make the right decision.

John: Yeah. At first the answers to certain questions are, it depends.

Mark: Yeah, that’s the case a lot of times I think.

John: One question we actually get a lot and we talked about in the last sessions was, you know, if you draw Social Security after full retirement age, you actually get a percent increase in your benefit. That does not work for spousal benefits. So if the spouse didn’t want to take or they want to defer their spousal benefit, they do not get the 8% increase on it.

Nick: Yeah. So, we have seen that mistake happen, you know, the primary person has decided, “Hey, let’s wait to collect the benefit” because they are under the assumption that not only will their benefit grow by 8%, but the spousal benefit that their spouse will take will grow, but that’s not the case. Only their benefit grows, the spousal benefit does not. So when we run kind of break even calculations, it can often makes sense to just have them start collecting so that they can get both of them.

John: Yeah. And then, you know, it’s important understand also for to be eligible for spousal benefits, you have to be married at least one year. So can’t be a just getting married and after six months started drawing on Social Security for a spouse.

Mark: They’re not going to just make it too easy for you anyway. All right, so that’s some good rules. That’s some good basic information there. What are some strategies? Give us a few things to think about when it comes to the spousal benefit options.

John: Yeah. And like we said, everyone’s situation is different. It really depends and it’s important to customize what works for you. And I think we offered in the last session, but if anyone wants it, we actually are working on a Social Security machination strategy, which we’re happy to do so. But one thing that we’ll do with some spousal strategies, depending on the situation, we might have one spouse claim early and the other spouse, depending on the situation, you know example of that would be, let’s say we have a high earner and they want to protect the spouse in case of a premature death. So we might go ahead and have the high earner, who’s Social Security benefit is higher, actually delay theirs. So, if they were to pass away prematurely, that spouse can actually jump onto a higher amount, high Social Security benefit, which is nice strategy to protect the surviving spouse.

John: I’ve used that a couple of times when there’s an age gap on the spouses or if I’m there, you know, sometimes clients will come in and they’re just concerned saying, “Hey, I’m really concerned something could happen to me. Is my spouse going to be okay?” We’ll go ahead and implement some strategies like that.

Nick: Another time where that can be used is if the primary earner has worked at in an occupation where they’re eligible for a pension and they’re going to receive a pension and they, you know, kind of through planning or whatever it may be. Or like the example of John mentioned where on of the spouses is maybe quite a bit younger, so when the other spouse is quite a bit younger, it pulls down the pension amount that the primary person would receive. So to offset that a little bit, we might recommend, “Well, hey, instead of doing a hundred percent survivor benefit on the pension, let’s do a 50% so that you can have a higher pay out. But to offset that, what we’ll do is we’ll have you wait to take Social Security until 70.” So the pension amount that the spouse would receive would be less, but we can offset that waiting on Social Security a little bit and still have more income coming in the household.

Mark: Gotcha. Okay. All right. So a couple of different strategies there to consider and I think a lot of times people sometimes don’t plan ahead for that part. It’s like we’re sitting there talking about different, when you’re getting your retirement plan done, I think sometimes we look at it overall and say, “Well, we want to turn Social Security on as soon as we can and yada, yada yada.” Instead of saying, “Okay, how can we most maximize our Social Security for both of us in an overall inclusive retirement plan?”

Mark: So it’s certainly important to do. And as John mentioned, you know, they can run that Social Security maximization if you have some questions on that. If you want to get that done or have a chat with them, give them a call at (813) 286-7776 that’s (813) 286-7776 and you can also check them out online at pfgprivatewealth.com.

Mark: As I mentioned before, there are financial advisors here in the Tampa Bay area, so if you have some questions about that, again, as always when you’re listening to this show or any other show before you take any action, always check with a qualified professional about your specific situation because everybody’s, it can be so different, so make sure you have that chat.

Mark: All right guys, I think in the interest of time we can probably squeeze in a couple more things. Can you give us a few things to think about on divorced spousal situations?

John: Yeah, so it is important for people to understand that they are still eligible for a spousal benefit if they were married for 10 years and they are not remarried. So a scenario that we may see with that is they were previously married to a high earner, maybe they worked a lower paying job, they were married for 25 years, became divorced, they went back to work to cover expenses, et cetera. They may be in a relationship currently, but they’re not officially married and we kind of go through calculations and we determined that, “Hey, the spousal benefit that you could receive from you former spouse would be higher than the benefit that you would receive on your own and or higher than the benefit that you would receive if you were to marry your current partner.” And obviously a lot of other factors go into that.

John: But, from a purely financial decision, that could work out really well because again, you cannot collect that spousal benefit from a former spouse if you are remarried. We have had questions along the lines of, you know, “Hey, I was married twice. Both were over 10 years. Am I restricted to choose just the most recent one?” And the answer is no, you can pick the higher. We had a nice young lady one time that had four different ten year marriages and she asked if she could add them all up together and unfortunately you can’t, it’s just the higher.

Nick: But she had a lot of options.

John: Yeah. It’s good to have options.

Mark: Like window shopping apparently.

John: So, yeah. So those are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Nick: Yeah. And one question we get a lot with divorced clients, they say, “How soon can I draw on the ex-spouse’s Social Security?” And really you can draw on an ex-spouse once that ex-spouse hits age 62. Unlike a kind of a normal situation, when we wait until the spouse draws Social Security. They put this rule in really to protect the ex spouse because we’ve seen scenarios where certain people might delay drawing to intentionally hurt the other spouse and so they can’t draw on them. So basically the rule is once the ex-spouse hits over 62, you can actually start drawing on the spousal benefits for divorcees.

John: Yeah. It does not matter whether or not they’re collecting. And also some people are happy about this, some people are not. But when you do get that benefit from a former spouse, again it does not affect their own benefit. There is no negative impact to doing that to them.

Mark: They don’t even know about it.

Nick: They would have no idea. And it actually wouldn’t affect any new spouse for somebody. So we get that question quite a bit where it says, “Hey, an ex-spouse draws on my Social Security. Does that affect my new wife or husband?” The answer is no.

Mark: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And there’s interesting on the time period on that, it’s funny that you kind of brought that up. My mother, who’s 78, actually was given that information and did a refile with the Social Security for her first husband. She was married twice as well. And so yes, she was able to do that and they hadn’t been married in like 40 years, but they were married over 10 years. So they were like, “Yep, that’s something you can do.” So I was like, “Okay, well knock yourself out.”

Mark: So yeah, it’s interesting. There’s definitely some few things to consider in there. Different kinds of a spousal benefit options, divorce spousal benefit options. So again, a lot of it comes down to having a conversation about your specific situation with your advisor when it comes to Social Security, because there are a lot of things in Social Security obviously, which is why we’re on a four part series, going to be a five part series actually around this.

Mark: So with that said, I think we’re going to depart this week on the program. I’ll say John and Nick, thanks for your time. As always, we appreciate it. Folks, make sure you reach out to them, give them a call if you’ve got some questions at (813) 286-7776. (813) 286-7776, again, that number to call. And as always, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. Retirement Planning Redefined. You can find it on Apple, Google or Spotify.
Mark: You can also just find it on their website at pfgprivatewealth.com and as I said at the beginning of this, that it was prior to Thanksgiving when we were taping this. Now we’ll actually air it after Thanksgiving. So we certainly hope that everybody had a great holiday season. And we’ll see you for more of our conversation around Social Security through the month of December, right here on Retirement Planning Redefined. For John, for Nick, we’ll see you next time.

Ep 9: Social Security, Part 3

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?

John: Great.

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.