Social Security

What Happens to Social Security when a Spouse Dies?

Mary is right to be concerned. She is worried about what will happen with their Social Security checks when her spouse dies, who she needs to notify at their bank, how to obtain death certificates and how complicated it will be for her to obtain widow’s benefits. Many answers are provided in the article “Social Security and You: What to do when a loved one dies” from Tuscon.com.

What happens to Social Security after a spouse dies
Trying to figure out what happens to Social Security after a spouse dies can be complicated.

First, what happens to the Social Security monthly benefits? Social Security benefits are always one month behind. The check you receive in March, for example, is the benefit payment for February.

Second, Social Security benefits are not prorated. If you took benefits at age 66, and actually turned 66 on September 28, you would get a check for the whole month of September, even though you were only 66 for three days of the month.

On the other hand, if your spouse dies on January 28, you would not be due the proceeds of that January Social Security check, even though he or she was alive for 28 days of the month.

Therefore, when a spouse dies, the social security monies for that month might have to be returned. The computer-matching systems linking the government agencies and banks may make this unnecessary, if the benefits are not issued. Or, if the benefits were issued, the Treasury Department may simply interrupt the payment and return it to the government, before it reaches a bank account.

There may be a twist, depending upon the date of the decedent’s passing. Let’s say that Henry dies on April 3. Because he lived throughout the entire month of March, that means the benefits for March are due, and that is paid in April. Once again, it depends upon the date and it is likely that even if the check is not issued or sent back, it will eventually be reissued. More on that later.

Obtaining death certificates is usually handled by the funeral director, or the city, county or state bureaus of vital statistics. You will need more than one original death certificate for use with banks, investments, etc. The Social Security office may or may not need one, as they may receive proof of death from other sources, including the funeral home.

A claim for widow’s or widower’s benefits must be made in person. You can call the Social Security Administrator’s 800 number or contact your local Social Security office to make an appointment. What you need to do, will depend upon the kind of benefits you had received before your spouse died.

If you had only received a spousal benefit as a non-working spouse and you are over full retirement age, then you receive whatever your spouse was receiving at the time of his or her death. If you were getting your own retirement benefits, then you have to file for widow’s benefits. It’s not too complicated, but you’ll need a copy of your marriage certificate.

Widow’s benefits will begin effective on the month of your spouse’s death. If your spouse dies on June 28, then you will be due widow’s benefits for the entire month of June, even if you were only a widow for three days of the month. Following the example above, where the proceeds of a check were withdrawn, those proceeds will be sent to your account. Finally, no matter what type of claim you file, you will also receive a one-time $255 death benefit.

For more on this topic and how to make sure your wishes are carried out and your assets are protected after you pass away visit the Mastry Law website.

Reference: Tuscon.com (March 13, 2019) “Social Security and You: What to do when a loved one dies”

Suggested Key Terms: Social Security, Benefits, Widow, Widower, Full Retirement Age, Death Certificate

Celebrated Your 50th Birthday? Here’s What You Need to Do Next

The 50s are the time of life when your kids are starting to become more independent and may have moved out. If that’s true, you may have a little more disposable income. That presents a good opportunity to ramp up your retirement savings, advises Sioux City Journal in the article “In Your 50s? Do These 3 Things to Plan for Your Retirement.”

Unfortunately, many people who turn 50 start thinking now is the time to retire early, go on extravagant vacations or buy themselves big ticket items that they’ve always wanted. A better approach: consider this a time to make the most of your income, keep saving for retirement and stay on a steady course.

Use the catch-up options available to you. The federal government knows that many people don’t have the means or the motivation to save for retirement until later in their careers. That’s why there are several provisions in the tax laws that let you catch up, once you reach 50.

  • You can put away an additional $1,000 above the annual contribution limit to an IRA.
  • You can add $6,000 in annual contribution to 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored plans after age 50.
  • Once you pass your 55th birthday, you can make an additional $1,000 annual contribution to health savings accounts.

If you’ve got the cash to spare, these are great opportunities.

Educate yourself about Social Security. Many people rely on Social Security for their retirement, while others use it as a safety net. You’ll want to start learning about the rules.

When you take your first benefits has an impact on how much you’ll receive over your lifetime. Yes, you can start at age 62, but the difference in the amount you’ll get at 62 versus 70 is substantial. If you plan to keep working indefinitely, maximizing earnings is the best way to boost your Social Security benefits.

Get access to savings in the early years of retirement. If you can afford to retire in your 50s, know when you can tap your retirement savings. If you’ve used regular taxable accounts to invest your savings, it won’t matter when you make withdrawals. However, if your money is locked up in 401(k)s, SEPs, IRAs and other tax favored accounts, you’ll need to know the rules. Penalties for taking withdrawals before the specified age, can take a big bite out of your retirement accounts.

It is hard to think about working every day for another 15 or 20 years, once you’ve celebrated your 50th birthday.  However, keeping these three key ideas in mind as you plan for the future will help put you in the best financial state possible.

Another post-50th birthday task? Meet with an estate planning attorney and make sure you have a will, Power of Attorney and other legal documents to protect yourself and your loved ones in case something unexpected should happen.

Reference: Sioux City Journal (Aug. 25, 2018) “In Your 50s? Do These 3 Things to Plan for Your Retirement”

Countdown to Retirement with Three Simple Questions

To help plan for retirement, it helps to move from asking global questions, like “Can I afford to retire?” to more specific questions, like “What’s my monthly cost of living right now?”

Sometimes retirement planning is so overwhelming that people just shrug their shoulders and hope that things work out. That’s a terrible way to plan for the last two or even three decades of your life. Plus, says Motley Fool in a recent article titled “Don't Even Think About Retiring Until You Can Answer These 3 Questions,” if you can’t answer three basic questions, maybe you’re not ready to start thinking about retirement.

MP900384841Can you believe that just 38% of Americans say they have a long-term financial plan, according to a recent survey? Let’s look at three important planning questions.

When to claim Social Security. Many people think that retirement and claiming Social Security benefits occur at the same time. However, they don't have to. You could elect to retire at age 60 but wait to claim your benefits until you reach 65. Remember that the amount of money you get in benefits is linked to the age at which you start claiming them. Age 62 is the earliest you can claim Social Security. However, if you do, your benefits will be reduced by up to 30% of what they could be. For every month you wait, you'll receive slightly more with each check up to age 70. Your full retirement age (FRA) is the age when you’ll get 100% of the benefits to which you’re entitled. Waiting can have its advantages, but there's no single right answer for when you should start claiming. It all depends on your personal circumstances.

Will your retirement savings last? Take a look at how far your savings will last during retirement. To determine how far your money will go, calculate the amount you'll need each year to get by during retirement. With a number in mind, you'll be able to better determine how long your current savings will last. You might realize that you need more than you anticipated, especially if you're going to be spending several decades in retirement.

Paying for healthcare costs. Healthcare costs are one of the largest expenses in retirement. Know that the average retiree spends about $4,300 per year on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. A total of two-thirds of that is spent on premiums. It’s important to understand that Medicare will help cover many healthcare expenses you'll face, but it doesn't cover everything.

Circumstances often dictate when people retire; they lose a job in their mid to late 60s or illness prevents them from working. However, even when that is the case, understanding where you are from a financial perspective can help make your retirement work in your favor.

Reference: Motley Fool (October 9, 2018) “Don't Even Think About Retiring Until You Can Answer These 3 Questions”

Another Facet of Social Security to Learn: The Earnings Test

If it seems like every time you start to understand Social Security, there’s something else to learn, you’re right. However, this is an important part of your retirement income, so it’s important to understand.

The Social Security earnings test is a way that the agency determines the limit of the amount of money individuals who have not yet reached full retirement age (FRA) can earn, while they are collecting Social Security retirement benefits.

Social securityFor 2018, for every $2 that a worker who has not yet reached FRA earns over the annual threshold limit of $17,040, Social Security will withhold $1 from your benefits.

The Social Security benefit threshold rises significantly (to $45,360 in 2018) in the year you attain your full retirement age (FRA). At that point, one dollar will be withheld for every three dollars you earn over that threshold. The earnings limit is effective the first of the year and indexed annually.

Investopedia’s recent article, “How the Social Security Earnings Test Works,” says that everyone getting Social Security benefits prior to their full retirement age is subject to the earnings test—even widows and widowers receiving survivor benefits and minor children receiving benefits on a deceased parent’s record, if the child earns more than the annual limit. If a minor child is receiving benefits based on a parent’s work history and the parent is still living and under full retirement age, the earnings test for the child’s benefit will be subject to the amount earned by the parent.

Let’s look at how the earnings limit is applied. In the first year you claim Social Security prior to your full retirement age, you’re subject to a monthly earnings test beginning the month you start receiving benefits ($17,040 ÷ 12, or $1,420 per month in 2018). As a result, you can earn as much as you want prior to the month you startyour benefits.

In subsequent years, until the year you reach FRA, you’re subject to an annual earnings limit each year after the first year, until the year you reach your full retirement age. At the start of each year, you’ll be asked to estimate how much you plan to earn. If your estimated earnings are less than the annual limit for that year, there won’t be any Social Security benefits withheld.

The earnings limit in the year when you reach your full retirement age is much higher ($45,360 in 2018). This is a monthlyearnings limit ($45,360 ÷ 12 or $3,780 per month), if it’s the first year you are claiming benefits, but an annualearnings limit if it’s the second or subsequent year you’re not receiving benefits.

The annual gross earnings, as reported on your W-2, are used. Therefore, contributing to a 401(k) or similar retirement plan to reduce earnings subject to state and federal income taxes won’t impact your earnings for the earnings test. However, payments received “on account of retirement,” like a severance package, aren’t subject to the earnings test.

Remember that the earnings of your spouse may be considered, when applying the earnings test for your benefits. If you’re claiming benefits based on your currentspouse’s work record, and your spouse is under FRA and continues to work, his or her earnings are considered when applying the earnings test for your benefits (even if you’ve already attained FRA). However, if you’re claiming benefits on an ex-spouse’srecord, only your current earnings and age are used when applying the earnings test.

Self-employed people have to work fewer than 45 hours per month in their business, otherwise benefits claimed prior to FRA will be withheld, no matter how much they earn.

When the Social Security Administration (SSA) determines you have or will exceed the earnings test based on the estimated earnings you give them, they’ll calculate the amount to withhold and begin doing so immediately. They’ll withhold payment of full benefit checks, until they receive the full amount overpaid, then they’ll go back to remitting your monthly benefit.

Depending on how much you will earn, it does sometimes make sense to apply for Social Security before your FRA, even if you might be subjected to the earnings test. For instance, a widow or widower with one income who needs the additional income might file for benefits earlier than they had anticipated. You’ll want to understand all of your options, before making the decision to file.

Reference: Investopedia (September 18, 2018) “How the Social Security Earnings Test Works”

More Information Equals A Better Outcome in Retirement Planning

Most people who work for a living dream of retirement. However, for many workers, the idea of retirement comes with its own worries. Will there be enough money? Will I be healthy enough to enjoy it?

Money and health are the two biggest worries about retirement. There are other unknowns: where will we live? How long will we be able to travel? What’s all this about paying estimated taxes, and how does Medicare work? Getting prepared for retirement will be less stressful, says the article “3 Ways to Approach Retirement More Confidently,” from The Motley Fool, if you follow these steps:

MP900398819Start with a budget. The chances are that you don’t know how much money you spend every month. You’re working, money comes in and it goes out. However, if you know how much money you are spending, and what you are spending it on, you’ll be able to have a handle on how much money you’ll need for retirement. You’ll also be able to see where your discretionary dollars are going and make a conscious decision, as to whether those are dollars that should be going into long-term savings for your retirement.

Remember that while some expenses may go down—like commuting—others will stay the same. You won’t be going to the office every day, but you will want to enjoy yourself. What will your leisure and entertainment activities be, and how much will they cost? How will you handle health care costs?  You should also remember that there will be quarterly taxes to be paid.

The more information you can pull together about your spending, savings and unavoidable costs like taxes and health care, the better you’ll be able to plan for this next phase of your life.

How much income will your retirement accounts provide? We tend to focus on how much we need to save, but we should really focus on how much income our retirement savings will generate. How much will your IRA or 401(k) provide on a monthly basis?

Let’s say you’ve saved $500,000 in time for retirement. If you use an annual 4% withdrawal rate, which is the going rule these days, you’ll only have $20,000 a year generated for annual income. If you add Social Security to that amount, you may find that it’s not enough to enjoy the lifestyle you’ve anticipated for retirement. You may find that part-time employment can fill the gap, or you may need to work for a few more years.

Be smart about Social Security. Despite your years of saving, you will likely come to rely on Social Security to pay some of your bills. The smarter you are about your filing strategy, the better positioned you’ll be to maximize your Social Security benefits. If you wait until your Full Retirement Age, you’ll get the full monthly benefit you’re entitled to. If you can hold off claiming your benefits until age 70, you’ll max out as the monthly benefits increase every year you delay claiming.

One of your key resources as you move towards your retirement years will be your estate planning attorney. The process of creating an estate plan will also answer some of your questions about what retirement will bring and planning for aging now will give you a lot more confidence about enjoying your early years of retirement.

Reference:The Motley Fool(September 23, 2018) “3 Ways to Approach Retirement More Confidently.”

How Taking Social Security at 62 Makes Sense in Some Tax Brackets

If you’re living on your retirement savings, while waiting to start taking Social Security benefits to full retirement age or even age 70, you might be costing yourself thousands in taxes.

It’s annoying. There’s no way around it. You’ve worked your whole life, and paid taxes on those earnings. Now you have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits. However, depending on your asset level, you may want to start getting those benefits earlier, says this article from Kiplinger, “Why Wealthy People May Want to Take Social Security at 62.”

MP900446480There are many good reasons to wait and take Social Security at full retirement age to get the full benefit amount. In waiting longer to file, the benefit can grow 8% a year from full retirement age to age 70.  However, this one-size-fits-all advice may not be appropriate for everyone, especially for the wealthy.

The issue is that everyone wants to up their benefits on the front end. However, if there is no plan to boost those dollars on the back end, by keeping more of your Social Security dollars for yourself instead paying taxes, it’s not worth it. For many seniors, by the time they see they’re going to be giving up to 20% to 30% of their Social Security away in taxes, it’s too late.

Of course, conventional wisdom says that, if possible, you should wait and claim bigger Social Security benefits at age 70. That’s something high earners in many instances can do, but there are an increasing number of couples who’d be better off filing at age 62, and using that income to preserve and build their nest egg.

Look at this example: say that a husband was retiring at age 62. Without his regular paycheck, he and his wife were both about to find themselves in the lowest tax bracket they had been in since their first jobs: the 10% bracket. The question for them, like many Americans, is whether to tap into their IRA and 401(k) in retirement. These are typically the most significant accounts in terms of amounts saved through the working years. If this couple didn’t start Social Security at age 62, they’d need to withdraw heavily from pretax retirement accounts. Based on the monthly distribution rate needed to maintain their budget, those dollars (which are taxed at current income tax rates) would immediately place them into a higher tax bracket (perhaps the 22% bracket under 2018 tax rates).

 However, if they take their Social Security payments at age 62, the monthly distribution amounts needed from their retirement savings accounts would be much less. This couple doesn’t want to drain their retirement accounts early in retirement, because it can mean lost opportunities for compounded growth of assets over a 20-to-30-year retirement. If the couple were to take their Social Security at age 62—while in a 10% tax bracket from age 62 to 70—the amount of tax they’d pay on those Social Security benefits would be minimal, maybe even zero.

Talk with your estate planning attorney, who has a clear picture of your tax situation in retirement and has likely designed your estate plan to minimize taxes. Make sure that your plan for when to take Social Security benefits makes sense from a tax perspective.

Reference: Kiplinger (September 7, 2018) “Why Wealthy People May Want to Take Social Security at 62”

Single Parents Need to Plan and Balance for Financial Stability

In addition to naming a guardian in a will, there are five other critical financial moves.

Without the security of a spouse’s income, single parents must balance their children’s needs with their own retirement savings goals.

MP900448410Single parents who have to say no to their children over and over again, struggle with wanting to say yes when money is tight and there’s no room in the budget for the latest fashions or games.  However, the last thing a single parent wants to do is convey a lack of financial discipline. A financial plan can help a single parent stay on track.

CNBC’s recent article, “Five financial essentials for single parents,” says that when single parents try to satisfy their kids, it can lead to a severe unintended consequence: placing their children ahead of their own retirement needs.

In addition to naming a guardian in a will, there are five other critical financial moves.

  1. Set up an emergency cushion. A solid emergency fund is the initial step. You should have three to nine months' expenses in that fund. Don’t forget to add whatever costs the kids have each month, like sports and activity fees, school lunches, clothing, and school supplies.
  2. Check on the right amount of insurance.Life insurance can help your family cope financially without your income. Your income could be lost through illness, so consider disability insurance. If you own a home, purchase flood insurance.
  3. Create definitive savings goals. You most likely have things that you'd like to do for your family, such as purchase a home, pay for college or plan a special vacation. Each of these will be on a different timeline. Divide this into near-, medium-, and long-term savings goals. Your near-term goals will happen within five years. The way in which you invest these three silos of money is based upon your unique time horizon. If you have decades before you retire or need to pay tuition for a newborn, you can take on more risk. Examine your allocation among these accounts and review them once a year, to see if the amounts you're putting in each—and the investment strategies—still match your goals.
  4. Have a set savings percentage. There's no set number that works for everyone. There are recommendations to save at least 6% or 9% of your income, but it’s not always possible. If you can only save $30 a month, do it and be glad! Just creating a positive habit of saving is important. Even if you save as little $10 a month, do it with the notion that you'll increase the amount, when your finances permit. A good rule of thumb is to put away 10% of your gross, not take-home, pay and as you get raises, increase your savings rate. Developing that disciplined habit of saving can help you accomplish many of your financial goals.
  5. Make your retirement plan. With your savings and Social Security, achieving a 50% replacement of income may be enough for people with modest salaries. However, a person who earns $100,000 will be more likely to want 85 to 90% of income. Therefore, they’ll have to save more. In sum, the more you have, the more you’ll need to save to be able to spend the same amount of money and live the same way in retirement.

For those lucky enough to work at a company with a retirement plan, contribute as much as you can, especially if your employer offers a match to your IRA contribution. If your company does not have any kind of retirement savings plan in place, the next best thing is to set up your own IRA and have money taken from your paycheck automatically. How much you save is up to you, but saving something is better than nothing.

Reference: CNBC (August 20, 2018)“Five financial essentials for single parents”

Wait, Social Security Benefits are Taxed?

How much of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on several factors.

How much of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on several factors. You’ll need the bigger picture of your retirement income to know how much of a hit you can expect.

TaxDepending on the amount of other income and Social Security benefits, those benefits are included with other taxable income. It could be 85%, 50%, or zero. There are steps you can take to reduce your tax exposure.  However, it takes planning and knowing the formulas.

Investopedia’sarticle, “How to Avoid the Social Security Tax Trap,”explains what’s includable in Social Security income and what’s taxed.

To know if your Social Security benefits will be partially taxed or fully tax-free, you need to use these formulas. Add up your gross income with certain adjustments. This is the amount from line 21 of Form 1040. Then add back any excluded income from interest on U.S. savings bonds used for higher education purposes, employer-provided adoption benefits, foreign earned income or foreign housing and income earned by residents of American Samoa or Puerto Rico.

To see if 50% of your Social Security benefits are taxed, review the amount listed on Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, which is sent to you by the Social Security Administration by the end of January following the year in which benefits were paid. For income tax purposes, the benefits are the gross amountlisted in Box 3, not the net amount you actually received after premiums for Medicare were withheld.

All tax-exempt interest is interest from municipal bonds listed on line 8a of Form 1040.

Look at the results compared to a “base amount” fixed for your filing status. If you’re below this amount, then none of your benefits are taxed:

  • $32,000 if married filing jointly; or
  • $25,000 if single, head of household, qualifying widow(er) and married filing separately, where spouses lived apart for the entire year.

If the income mix you figured earlier is equal to or above this base amount, then see if 50% or 85% of benefits is includible. For married persons filing jointly, 50% is includible for income between $32,000 and $44,000, and 85% is includible, if income is more than $44,000.

For singles, head of household, qualifying widow(er) and married filing separately, where spouses lived apart for the entire year, 50% is includible of income, if between $25,000 and $34,000, and 85% of benefits is includible, if income is above $34,000. For a married person filing separately who did not live apart from their spouse for the full year, 85% of benefits are includible.

There are also some special situations. The usual computation isn’t used if you:

  • Made deductible IRA contributions and you or your spouse were covered by a qualified retirement plan through your job or self-employment. (Instead, use the worksheet in IRS Publication 590-A);
  • Repaid any Social Security benefits during the year (see in IRS Publication 915); or
  • Received benefits this year for an earlier year (You can make a lump-sum election that will reduce the taxable amount for this year. Use worksheets in IRS Publication 915).

Since 85% of benefits are includible, once you exceed the $44,000/$34,000 income threshold, it may be wise to defer income to a particular year. Say that you know your income is going to be above this threshold and you’re planning on converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA. You could make the conversion in this year and pay the taxes on it. This won’t result in any additional inclusion of Social Security benefits. As a result, in the future, you won’t have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) because you have a Roth IRA, not a traditional one. This will keep your income lower in future years than it would have been without the conversion.

Remember that your federal income tax isn’t the only tax to worry about. Thirteen states tax Social Security benefits. However, 37 states don’t (either because they have no state income tax or fully exempt Social Security benefits).

Among the 13 states, seven of them (Connecticut, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Utah) have high-income thresholds for taxing benefits. So, even if you’re a resident, your benefits may not actually be taxed.

 However, if you live in Minnesota, North Dakota, Vermont, or West Virginia—and your benefits are taxable for federal income tax purposes—they’re automatically taxable for stateincome tax purposes. This is because these states use the federal determination. Remember this, if you’re thinking of relocating in retirement.

You’ll want to gather up all your retirement income information and estate planning documents to see what can be done to reduce Social Security tax exposure. Your estate planning attorney should be able to help guide you through the process.

Reference: Investopedia(March 13, 2018) “How to Avoid the Social Security Tax Trap”

When is the Best Time to Start Taking Social Security?

Consider these twin concepts—opportunity cost and delayed retirement credits—before you decide

Consider these twin concepts—opportunity cost and delayed retirement credits—before you decide when to start taking Social Security.

MP900411753By waiting until age 70, you’ll increase your monthly benefit, but at what cost?A recent article inForbes,“Social Security Benefits: Getting Paid To Wait,”examines the dilemma. Money managers call it “opportunity risk:” if you take money from retirement accounts that would otherwise be invested and grow, in order to delay taking Social Security, you are risking the potential for that money to grow.

Can you plan for opportunity cost? Start by looking at whether to wait to take Social Security after your “normal” retirement age, which is 66 for most people. If you wait to claim at age 70, you’ll see the largest-possible Social Security benefit. If you’re not working, you’ll probably be withdrawing money from your retirement funds, which means that those funds won’t be able to grow for a period of several years. As a result, you’ll need to weigh the opportunity cost of not having funds growing tax-deferred in your retirement accounts, against the larger Social Security benefit you will eventually get.

The math isn’t always easy to calculate, but there’s a simple, indirect rule of thumb that Social Security provides. It is known as “delayed retirement credits.” Based on your birth year, Social Security will give you a bonus for waiting to claim benefits. Take a look at how that works:

Delayed Retirement Credits

Year of birth     Credit per year

1917-24                         3.0%

1925-26                         3.5%

1927-28                         4.0%

1929-30                         4.5%

1931-32                         5.0%

1933-34                         5.5%

1935-36                         6.0%

1937-38                         6.5%

1939-40                         7.0%

1941-42                         7.5%

1943 and later              8.0%

 Therefore, if you were born after 1943, for every year you wait to claim benefits after age 66 or so, you get an 8% bump in potential benefits up until age 70. That can be a sweet deal, especially if your portfolio isn’t giving you that kind of return. If it’s doing better than that (after taxes), then you might want to leave as much money as you can in your own savings.

If you elect to work, you can build up a larger nest egg, avoid withdrawals and take Social Security later for the maximum benefit. However, not everybody can work later, nor will they be able to plan to delay retirement withdrawals or Social Security. However, if you see that your work/lifestyle situation is flexible, you should run several scenarios.

Your decision needs to be made after reviewing every source of income, considering your tax and estate plan. Of course, the more assets you own, the more complex the analysis will become. Taxes are a considerable concern, since most of your retirement fund withdrawals (except for Roth IRAs) will be taxable. Another factor to consider: your expected life span. If you come from a family with long life spans, your planning may be different than if you have a chronic condition, like diabetes or heart disease.

Reference: Forbes (June 1, 2018)“Social Security Benefits: Getting Paid To Wait”

How to Balance Working with Social Security Benefits

Yes, you can work while collecting Social Security, but you have to be very careful.

Yes, you can work while collecting Social Security, but you have to be very careful. Earn too much and you’ll be working for nothing!

Bigstock-Senior-couple-standing-togethe-12052331If your retirement plan includes working, even if only part time, make sure to know your income limits. At a certain point, your earnings will either cause Social Security to be reduced, or you might end up paying more in taxes.

Investopedia’srecent article, “How Working Affects Your Social Security Benefits,”says that when you’re retired, if you claim at your full retirement age (FRA), you are entitled to receive 100% of your benefits from Social Security (that age varies based on your year of birth). Those individuals turning 62 in 2018, will be able to fully retire at 66 and four months and begin collecting Social Security.

However, claiming benefits early means you get lessin Social Security income each month, than if you had waited until your FRA. Therefore, if you can wait until full age, or even later, it may be wise. For every month you claim beforethe full retirement age, the monthly benefit you receive will go down by a fixed percentage. You could claim an income that is about a third less,than if you would have waited. Claiming early and earning too much, means the amount you receive later may be reduced even more. This year, people who earn more than $16,920 will have a dollar held back for every two earned above the limit.

In 2018, your earnings can go to $17,040, and you won’t have your benefits impacted. Hitting your FRA and claiming in 2018 means you can earn $45,630 without a reduction in benefits. The reduction won’t be spread out over the year. Monthly benefit payments will be stopped, until the amount reduced is covered and then you’ll begin receiving your monthly checks again.

Because there’s no pro-rating, you won’t get income from Social Security until the amount is covered. The rest of the checks will then begin coming each month until the end of the year, with any extra money withheld paid back to you the following year. It is not forfeited, but added into your benefit calculation to up your benefit when you hit FRA.

The income limit on working only applies, if you’re youngerthan full retirement age.  People who’ve already reached FRA can earn as much as they want, and it won’t reduce the benefits they get. The limit only applies to work earnings, not the money you gain from investments, annuities, pensions, etc. For those who are self-employed, Social Security will base their income on their net earnings.

The IRS calculates how much of your benefits will be taxed, based primarily on your adjusted gross income. To see if you will be taxed on your benefit, add half of your expected income to your other income and tax-exempt interest. If that’s more than $25,000 for you alone or over $32,000 for a married couple, some of your benefits will be taxable. If it’s more than $34,000 for you or $44,000 for a married couple in 2018, you may fall into the 85% social security tax bracket.

Some people dread the very idea of retiring, since they enjoy their work or want to continue their income stream to maintain a lifestyle. Just remember that if you claim benefits early or continue to work after reaching your FRA, there may be an impact on your benefits. Speak with an estate planning attorney to figure out the balance of benefits and work that makes sense for you.

Reference: Investopedia(December 27, 2017) “How Working Affects Your Social Security Benefits”

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