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.

Ep 8: Social Security, Part 2

On This Episode

We continue our discussion on social security this week. Today’s show will focus on how you can integrate social security in your retirement plan and some variables you may need to look out for when doing so.

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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 coming back in with us. As we talk here on retirement planning redefined, we always appreciate you joining us here on the podcast. With John and Nick, financial advisors at PFG Private Wealth, and we’re going to continue our multi-part series on social security. We talked about a few things last go around on the podcast, and we’re going to continue that on this time as well. John, how you doing buddy? How’s things going?

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

Speaker 1: I’m hanging in there. Doing pretty well. I think I’m doing about the same as Nick. At the time as podcast, our teams did not fare well this past weekend in football. How are you doing, Nick?

Nick: Good. While we lost, I’m still cautiously optimistic.

Speaker 1: Yeah, that’s right. That’s good.

Nick: I’m okay.

Speaker 1: That’s how fans do it, right? You still stay optimistic even when they break your heart over and over. We’ll save that for another time, but I do want to continue on our conversation about social security. We had some good chat the last time. We has some good conversation about things to consider, so we’re going to continue this piece on. As we teased the last time, and if you didn’t listen to it, make sure you go and check out the prior episode. You can go to PFGPrivateWealth.com. That is PFGPrivateWealth.com, and you can subscribe to the podcast, Retirement Planning Redefined, you can subscribe to that and listen to past episodes as well as future episodes. Let’s get into this part. We’re going to talk about how to integrate, really, social security into your retirement plan. So what’s a few steps to start and start thinking about when it comes to the integration of it?

John: Yeah, you know, one thing we wanted to touch on with social security is just how important it is in someone’s retirement plan. A lot of people don’t realize it really equates to almost 30 to 40% of their retirement income, and a big factor of why it’s important, it’s actually inflation protected. On average, historically, social security is average about 2.6%. So it’s really nice to have a set of income that’s actually going to be going up with cost of living adjustments. It makes a big difference.

John: Just kind of give a quick example. Let’s say if you’re starting social security now, it’s $2,000 per month. Within 20 years at 2.6%, that’ll be about $3,340 or so, which is a big jump in income. It’s important to understand how valuable that is in how much that really does help out someone’s retirement plan.

Speaker 1: All right, so let’s talk about some taxation and some benefits there. Nick, what are some things to think about when it comes to the benefits of the taxation?

Nick: From the standpoint of I guess making sure that people understand how social security works. From conversations that we’ve had, a lot of people are under the impression that because social security was funded via the payroll taxes that we talked about in the last session, they’re under the impression that there’s not going to be any sort of income tax when you start to receive it.

Speaker 1: Right.

Nick: As many people do know, that is incorrect. The formula that they use to calculate how much of the benefit is taxable to somebody is a little bit convoluted. Essentially what they do is they look at a modified adjusted gross income number, which includes your adjusted gross income, half of the amount that you receive from social security, and then a tax exempt interest, aka, interest from municipal bonds. They add that together, and then they really kind of look at a chart. And then dependent upon if you are single or married, it’s going to determine what percentage of your benefit is going to be includable in your taxable income.

Nick: If we were to say that your benefit amount was 2,000 a month, and your combined, that income formula that we kind of talked about, puts your income over about $38,000. 85% of your benefit, or about 1,700 of the 2,000, is going to be added to the other income sources that you have to determine how much you’re going to pay in tax. We just like to make sure that people understand that although that benefit is coming in, oftentimes they look at the gross amount, and they don’t necessarily understand that, hey, once you’re on Medicare, your Medicare, it gets deducted out of that. You’re probably going to want to have some sort of federal income tax withheld from it. That benefits starts to drop down. So that’s something that we always make sure we focus on and make sure that people understand.

John: When we’re doing planning, and people find out that the social security is taxed, they are not happy.

Nick: Yeah, and sometimes we get asked when did that happen or how did that happen? It really happened in the 80s, during the Reagan administration, is when it took place. Realistically, for most of the people that we’re working with, they’ve been in the working world for 30 years, and that’s been in place. It’s not something that’s necessarily very new or anything like that. There’s really minimal ways that you can actually reduce the impact on taxes. Realistically, the only other sort of income that’s not includable in that is any withdrawals that you’ll take out of a Roth IRA. So dependent upon their overall situation, and dependent upon the structure of what they’re going to have to take out, required minimum distributions and those sorts of things, we may look at different strategies, like converting traditional money to Roth money, and determining if that makes sense.

Nick: I’ll say this, that people do tend to hate taxes, and I know that sounds kind of funny, but the point being is that sometimes they’ll try to make irrational decisions just to try to deal with maybe a tax issue without figuring out that hey, you know, they may only be paying an effective tax rate of 12 or 13% on their income, which in the scheme of things is really low. And so making sure that they understand that, and that they don’t need to make rash decisions with how they structure their decisions is an important kind of thing. Social security just kind of factors in, it’s important for people to understand how it works and how it’s taxed. It’s more of just kind of an FYI sort of thing.

Speaker 1: Well, really good information here. We’re talking about how to integrate social security in a retirement plan. John, did you have another point about the taxes here on this?

John: Yeah, so one thing that we do in planning is we really start to map out someone’s taxes into retirement, and a big chunk of that is their required minimum distribution age 70 and a half. If we can see how much taxes they’re going to pay, we can really make some strategies for someone’s social security based on that. But again, the plan kind of gives you the roadmap so you can make the right decision based on your situation.

Nick: And to kind of add on to that. More specifically, when we map that out and we look at it, what we’re looking to see is when those required minimum distributions are due at 70 and a half, because people, by default, like to put them off as long as they can. Sometimes it will actually make sense to start taking money out of their IRAs first and wait on social security. Whereas the default for most people is take social security first, and then take out the money for the required minimum distributions. Structuring those decisions together as one is a really important way that you can kind of add in some tax planning into your overall retirement planning.

Speaker 1: All right, so we’re going to continue our conversation on the next podcast as well, part three if you will, about social security. But before we get out of here for this particular episode. Any other thoughts about some of the things we’ve covered today, gents?

John: Yeah, so it’s kind of going back to what we first talked about with social security being important in someone’s plan and inflation. The reason that is is when you have a portion of your retirement income that’s guaranteed, it really helps us kind of map out how we should invest or basically implement a distribution strategy from the rest of the assets. So having that base of, let’s say, 30,000 guaranteed income coming in, that’s going up with cost of living, helps us really map out the rest of the investments and how we should strategize behind that.

Nick: I think another good tool or, you know… Because as an example, my father has a pension, he’s a retired fireman, and I have to constantly remind my mother what kind of the equivalent of a lump sum of dollars would be if he would have a lump sum versus the amount that he gets every single month through the pension. If we’re saying on average the social security benefit amount for somebody that’s been working for their full life, and waits until their full retirement age to take it, is around 2,000 per month. Let’s say it’s a dual family household, so we’re talking about 4,000 per year. That’s really the equivalent of a safe withdrawal rate and a million bucks.

Nick: One of the super common questions that people ask us is how much can I take out of my retirement account each year? The safe withdrawal rates around 4%, so 4% on a million, $40,000 a year. 2,000 a month times two is closer to $48,000 a year. So we’re talking about one plus million bucks. If that money was sitting in an account at least generating income, even though you couldn’t invade principle, that sometimes gives people some perspective on how valuable that social security income really is to them in our overall planning.

Speaker 1: Well again, we are talking about social security. We’ve gone through a couple of pieces the last couple of podcasts. We’re going to do another one coming up in just a couple of weeks here, and continue on with our conversation with John and Nick, financial advisors at PFG Private Wealth, around social security. If you have questions and concerns, and you probably do because social security can be quite confusing to a lot of us who don’t deal with this every day. Well then reach out to the guys, give them a call and let him know, because they do obviously work in this arena every day. Having a conversation, getting a second opinion if you’ve already got one, maybe you have no plan at all, or maybe you’ve had no conversations around it,. Well, just reach out and let them know that you’d like to talk.

Speaker 1: 813-286-7776 is how you can reach out to them if you’d like. here in the Tampa Bay area. 813-286-7776. And of course, you can also just go to the website, PFGPrivateWealth.com. That is PFGPrivateWealth.com. Check out the team on the website there as well. You can also subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you choose, Apple or Google, or so on and so forth, and listen to past episodes as well as future episodes. So guys, I’m going to say bye this week for you, and we’ll be back next time here on the podcast, so make sure you tune in for more Retirement Planning Redefined with John and Nick from PFG Private Wealth. We’ll see you next time.

Ep 7: Social Security, Part 1

On This Episode

Today is the start of a multiple part series on social security. We’ll be discussing topics such as the state of the fund and reforms that are aimed to help the program and more, so tune in and catch up on social security.

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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 gang, welcome into another edition of retirement planning redefined with the boys from PFG Private Wealth Financial Advisors, John and Nick, once again here on the program with me as we talk about investing, finance and retirement. Always go to the website and check them out at pfgprivatewealth.com that is pfgprivatewealth.com. While you’re there, subscribe to the podcast. Give us a like and check us out and all that good stuff. Subscribe to it for past episodes as well as future episodes. And of course anytime you hear anything, you’ve got a question or concern, give them a call before you take any action. 813-286-7776 is the number to call. If you hear a useful nugget of information and you want to learn more, again, reach out to them at (813)-286-7776. Guys, I hope you’re doing well this week. Nick, what’s going on man?

Nick: Yeah, we’re doing well. Staying busy for sure. Today what we wanted to do is kick off a multi session on social security.

Mark: Okay. Cool.

Nick: And we just want to let everybody know. We know that some of the people that’ll be listening to this will have become familiar with us through either the more comprehensive classes that we put on around town or via a financial wellness workshop. And social security has been one of the hot topics for a long time and it continues to be as it is more in the news with the different pressures and some of the funding issues and those sorts of things. And then obviously with everybody, so many people and so many baby boomers getting closer to retirement, although we will be getting into it fairly comprehensively in this session, we just wanted to make sure that everybody knew that if they were interested in having us come in, whether it’s some sort of association or an employer based kind of program, we like to do the lunch and learns or some sort of financial wellness workshop.

Nick: And we’ve got about a 50 minute session that we’ll do on social security. And from the feedback that we’ve gotten, it’s been one of the most positively embraced sessions that we’ve done. So we just want to let people know that if they wanted a more comprehensive overview on this or they thought it might be beneficial for their employer or fellow employees or coworkers, that that’s something that’s available.

Mark: Awesome. Yeah. When we get into that we’ll have this multi-part series on the podcast regarding social security. And again, as Nick mentioned, if you want to talk with them, (813)-286-7776, (813)-286-7776.

Mark: John, how are you man? You doing all right?

John: I’m doing great. How are you doing?

Mark: I’m doing very well. Thank you for asking. And you know, Nick got us all set up there for the conversation. So what do you say we dive into it? How does it work? I mean, what’s the crux of the whole social security situation here we’re looking at?

Nick: Most people are obviously familiar with the fact that they are eligible for social security and they pay into the system, but not a lot of people are familiar with how it all works and ties together. We always like to start off in explaining people how the program is funded. A lot of people have seen on their pay stub where it might say FICA and they’re not really quite sure what that is. But out of that 7.62 that comes out of your paycheck for those FICA tax is 6.2% of that is for social security. And one of the things that we have found over the years is that many people are not familiar with the fact that the employer also pays in 6.2%. Some people have this idea that the program is fully funded by the government and really it’s fully funded by them and their employer.

Nick: Letting them know that about 12.5% of their income each year is going into the program towards them is something that is important for them to understand. And for some of the higher income earners, they may have noticed at a certain point of the year that their paycheck gets a little bit bigger. And usually that’s because payroll tax is capped, so people no longer pay in on earnings over … In 2019 on earnings over $132,900. And as we talk a little bit about some of the things that’ll change over time with the program, one of the things that’s in the news the most is that cap and removing that cap so that it’s similar to Medicare where people will pay on, no matter what their earnings are, they will continue to pay into the system.

John: That cap’s actually been going up aggressively. You know, I think a few years ago it was $112 Nick, and I think now they’ve jumped it up to one $132.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. They’ve definitely been indexing it up faster than inflation, that’s for sure.

Mark: Yeah. And depending on what happens in the elections coming up next year, you know, depending on who gets in, there’s conversations that that 6.2 could be raised as well. So if you’re still working, so that could go up substantially as well.

Mark: How much can somebody expect guys? I imagine that’s a big question that always comes up is, what are we looking at? I know you can get your estimates, obviously, from the website. They don’t even send those little papers out anymore I don’t think. They used to send them out every year, then it went to every five years. I’m not sure if they even still do that.

John: They do occasionally, and I’m not sure the exact how often, but I know that from our classes we’re starting to have guests say, yeah they’re getting the statements. But it’s based off of your earnings record. And one thing that’s important to understand, it’s actually your highest 35 years. So a lot of people when I first started working, I think the first year I was 18 I made like $12,000.

Mark: That’s pretty good for 18.

John: You’re [crosstalk 00:05:20]. Yeah, exactly. Your highest earning years are really later in life, once you hit your 50s and 60s. So that’s important to understand if someone’s thinking about retiring early to make sure that they look on the statement and see, Hey, what years do I have that are significant in here? Because if I stop working my last seven years, you know the benefit that I’m seeing on my statement’s actually going to be less.

John: Because when you get your statement, what it shows if you continue to work up until that age, not if you stopped. So that’s important. Another thing we tell our clients and anyone that comes to our classes is to make sure that you look at it, see if there’s any zeros in there. Because if you do have zeros in your highest 35 that will actually bring down your benefit and that’s something you may want to consider maybe working a couple of extra years to make sure that you maximize your social security retirement benefit as best you can.

John: And you’re right, you can go on social security.gov and pull up your statement. They’ll ask you a lot of funny questions. What was the color of your first car? Most likely most people get locked out unfortunately, but it’s good to go check it out if you haven’t done that in awhile.

Nick: Yeah. Another thing to just make sure that people know from the standpoint of those highest 35 years is that’s in relation to the cap. And so you know that cap that we mentioned earlier, that $132,900, it’s in relation to that. Just because there may have been a period of time, we’ve seen it in some circumstances, where maybe somebody took some time off to stay home with the kids and then they’re returning to work and before they took time off they were making a higher income. And although, from a pure dollar standpoint they may be making more dollars now as in relation to the cap, that may not necessarily be the case.

Nick: That highest 35 earning years is in relation to that cap. And with how social security date change the mailing out of the [inaudible 00:07:04] and that sort of thing, we absolutely recommend that people, although it can be a little bit of a pain from the process, to really get logged into the site, make sure they understand how to access that statement, make sure they understand how to read that statement. Especially from the standpoint of people that we have that are self employed. We have them double check their statements to make sure that their income is being correctly recorded because they may be paying in their self employment tax, which is essentially payroll tax. Making sure that that’s recorded properly so they’re going to get the benefits that they’re entitled to down the road.

Mark: Yeah. Now guys, I’ve heard through the years that if you see those zeros on there like John mentioned that that’s not really on the social security to fix that. That falls back on you in trying to follow up possibly with past and employers. Like if you know you earned something in a given year and you’re seeing a zero, is that still how it is? Is that the way that it goes? Do you need to talk with the social security office about that or do you need to track down that past employer?

John: You do need to reach out to them and Nick’s, I believe, grandfather did that and Nick can share that story.

Mark: Oh, all right.

Nick: And this was years ago, so I don’t know any details on it, but my grandfather was from Cuba and so he had a natural distrust for the government. And when he was a professor at the University of Rochester and when he went to retire and file for social security, he did not agree with the amount. And due to his non-trusting nature, he happened to have every pay stub that he ever had in the basement. And so he was able to figure that out. Luckily now we have things that are more electronic and we do have people try to keep some sort of record and haven’t had anybody recently deal with that in any sort of deeper way.

Mark: That’s good.

Nick: But usually a tax return will help. And tax returns are one of the things that we have people … We’ve got a portal for clients and we have them upload those tax returns so that they can be a really good resource down the road in case there’s any issues.

Mark: Well that’s cool. Yeah. I mean I’m 48 and I think about myself and I think God, if I had to go back and figure out who I worked for when I was 20 and what they owed me or whatever, or what I paid in, I don’t know where I’d start. So that was awesome that your grandfather actually kept all that stuff. Because I know that for a lot of people that would be definitely a challenge. But that’s just something I thought about and I wanted to bring that up and get your guys’ opinion on that.

Mark: So if you’re talking about things that are really important to people, obviously a big question for boomers, and I’m sure you get this at the wellness events that you do and just in general is the constant question of the health of the fund. Is it going to be around?

John: Yeah, that is a 100% the main question we get at the workshops and also when we’re doing planning for clients. But as it states today there’s actually a surplus and the fund is actually growing. There’s roughly $2.9 trillion in it and when you say trillion it doesn’t really in reality mean much, we have no idea what that actually equates to.

Mark: It sounds like a lot.

John: [crosstalk 00:09:56] Surplus, it is a lot. But the surplus is about $3 billion a year between money that’s coming into it through the payroll taxes and also the interest earned on the balance. Just to kind of give some people some numbers because they’re always asking. In 2023, 2024 that surplus actually will stop. So it’s actually going to be going into a deficit and then in 2034 the fund’s basically exhausted and then it’s just going to be paid through basically money coming in through payroll taxes and then the money’s going to come out. An then in 2034 when that happens, based on the numbers, the estimates, is looking like there’s going to be a 21% reduction of benefits. So you’re going to get 79% of the benefit owed to you. And again, that’s if no changes happen, which we’ll we’re going to go into shortly. Nick will start it up where we’re talking about some of the reforms that already have been happening and that will continue to happen.

Nick: And we do tend to … Some of these will probably be repeated throughout the series about social security. And earlier I mentioned the increase in max earnings, removing that cap. That’s probably one of the lowest hanging fruit from the standpoint of people getting on board with making higher income earners continue to pay into the system. Right now, the earliest retirement age that somebody can collect benefits from is 62. So that’s an age, especially with the longevity of people’s lives and people just living longer overall, that 62 will probably start to increase. I’m sure people will be grandfathered in at a certain age or certain, your worth and before it will be grandfathered in, but-

Mark: It seems like that’s a really-

Nick: John and I suspect that our-

Mark: Yeah, that seems like the easiest one too for a lot of things. Right? Just push it back for people under a certain age, like 50 and under or something, just push it back.

Nick: Yeah. And social security … The trickiest thing and probably one of the biggest reasons that not much has been done with it is because, frankly politicians are worried about not getting voted back into office, so-

Mark: Yeah, it’s a political poker chip for sure.

Nick: They [inaudible 00:11:53] can down the road and try not to tick people off at least to a certain extent. So raising that initial retirement age from 62 probably upwards of … They’ll probably ease it in, but I wouldn’t be surprised if John and I, our initial retirement age is closer to 65 or higher.

Nick: They’ve talked about doing means testing from the standpoint of if people have a certain amount of income on that they wouldn’t collect their social security. I think that one will probably be a little bit more difficult because usually that’s income focused and honestly there’s a lot of ways around that.

Nick: But another thing would be that cost of living adjustment, and that’s been tinkered with a little bit really over the last decade as inflation stayed low for a little while and interest rates were really low. But that could be something that they adjust. But realistically what we think will be the easiest things to do will be to take up on the payroll tax, potentially have employers put in a slightly larger percentage than the actual employee. It’s something that they can do. Increasing that cap or the earning cap or removing the cap in general, and bumping back that initial retirement age, are all things that we think will be a big deal.

Nick: The other thing could be the, really the increases, the percentage increases that social security provides for people that defer taking their benefits. So if they wait, any year after full retirement age, there’s an 8% increase. And so that’s something that’ll probably drop as well.

Nick: The good news is that this is pretty actuarial and really all you have to do is math to figure it out. It’s just going to take people being willing, people being the government, being willing to make the changes.

John: Yeah. And they’ve already, in 2015 they actually closed some of the loopholes which we’ve been seeing a lot of in planning some strategies that people were using are going away, which helped the program out. They’re already doing some things. And the big thing that … One of the things Nick talked about was the cost of living adjustments. To me that’s one of the ones we need to keep an eye on because when we’re doing planning, it really helps out the plan when you have some type of guaranteed income that actually goes up with inflation.

John: Historically, social security has gone up about 2.6%. It’s been low over the last five or six years due to inflation, but that’s actually a pretty nice benefit when you look at what you start with at let’s say 66 and what you end up with that age 85. It’s a big amount. When you look over that 20 year period.

Nick: Probably the one people want to fight for the most to maintain from the standpoint of anybody that’s likes to be active or have a vested interest in the topic, that cost of living adjustment’s really, really important for them.

Mark: Absolutely. Well, let’s take that point and segue into an offer for you guys. If you’re listening and you want a free maximization strategy and the social security guide to anyone who emails in, just email john@pfgprivatewealth.com that’s john@pfgprivatewealth.com. Again to get that free maximization strategy and social security guide here on the program.

Mark: And I that’s going to do it for us this week on the podcast guys. Really good information to start this week, talking about social security here on the show. We’re going to continue on, as Nick mentioned earlier on, and do a multi-part series on this next time here on the program. We’re going to talk about integrating social security into your retirement plan, making that part of the plan and some things to look for and think about in regards to that.

Mark: You’ve been listening to retirement planning redefined with John and Nick financial advisors at PFG Private Wealth. Again, that’s PFG Private Wealth and that you can find them online at pfgprivatewealth.com and subscribe to the podcast while you’re there. Don’t forget to email John if you’d like to get that social security maximization or give him a call at (813)-286-7776. If you’ve got some questions about your own social security, get on the horn with them. Come in for a consultation and a conversation. (813)-286-7776. This has been retirement planning redefined for John and Nick. I’m Mark and we’ll see you next time.