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.