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Bolstering your Social Security benefits
Old 03-18-2013, 08:14 AM   #1
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Bolstering your Social Security benefits

This was in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. I haven't seen it here, so since we have so many questions about when to take it, etc., I thought I'd share. Lots of info in here that I didn't know, but then there's no end to the stuff I don't know.

T. Rowe Price is rolling out a new tool, but this article also covers many other tools to help you make this decision.


Quote:
Many variables affect Social Security benefits, from age and the timing of retirement for spouses to taxes, income from continuing work and income from tax-deferred retirement savings. By tweaking any of these, retirees might be able to boost or cut their payouts significantly. The permutations are confusing—even to people who consider themselves financially savvy.


Family Value: Bolstering Your Social Security Benefits - WSJ.com
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:33 AM   #2
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From the article: "We wanted to remind people how much income drops for the surviving spouse."

That is my concern for my exactly, as I am 5 years older than DW and have had heart issues.
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Old 03-18-2013, 03:50 PM   #3
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The article says,
Quote:
People who were married for at least 10 years before getting divorced "earned a lot of rights that those in married couples have in terms of spousal benefits and survivor benefits," Mr. Mahaney says. "It doesn't really matter what your ex does or what your ex's new spouse does."

Keep in mind that if you have been divorced for at least two years and you are filing for a benefit based on your ex-spouse's work record, that ex has to be at least 62 and eligible for Social Security. It doesn't matter whether your ex has applied for that benefit, says a spokeswoman for the Social Security Administration.

For example, if you are near retirement age and your own benefit is similar in size to your spousal benefit, you could take your spousal benefit at your full retirement age and delay your own benefit until age 70, Mr. Mahaney says.
(emphasis mine)

Guess I am going to have to do some research and find that in black and white on the Social Security website sometime before I reach full retirement age (15 months from now). Otherwise I am just too scared to try it, based only on articles like this.

In 1998 I divorced my (now) ex after a 23 year marriage, but do not want to take the allotted 50% of his SS at 66 if that means I can't take 100% of my own at 70. Because I feel so unsure about this, I was planning to just skip taking his entirely and to wait until 70 to take my own SS.

Also the above implies that I would get 100% of his SS at 66, and I am certain that is not the case.
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Old 03-18-2013, 04:42 PM   #4
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Our experiences with Social Security have been incredibly good. The people who answer the phone have been very knowledgeable, and even better, very smart in being able to: 1. understand individual questions, and 2. give the answers, or to find out, and return calls.

I never hesitate to call and ask, if I have questions, and have yet to encounter an unpleasant SS worker.
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Old 03-18-2013, 04:50 PM   #5
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Our experiences with Social Security have been incredibly good. The people who answer the phone have been very knowledgeable, and even better, very smart in being able to: 1. understand individual questions, and 2. give the answers, or to find out, and return calls.

I never hesitate to call and ask, if I have questions, and have yet to encounter an unpleasant SS worker.
But if I don't have it in writing, they could say anything and later on deny it, I guess.
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Old 03-18-2013, 05:27 PM   #6
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One of the most comprehensive websites on SS issues is Paul Solman's Blog for PBS:

For instance, this entry by Larry Kotlikof: Three Rules for How to Get the Highest Social Security Benefits.
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:11 PM   #7
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I tried the TRP SS strategy calculator for maximum benefits:

I file at age 70.
DW (5 years younger, roughly equal SS benefits) files for spousal benefits at her FRA of 67.
DW files for her own benefits at age 70.

I hadn't actually seen a strategy with both of us filing at 70. I was thinking we would have her filing at 62. Given the spousal benefit is free money and not insignificant, it may be worth it to delay her filing until 70. Even though the smaller of our two benefits disappears when the first of us passes.
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:58 PM   #8
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Regarding the t. row price and AARP calculators, neither calculator site is encrypted, so I am not going to put my personal information in there. I guess I could use facsimile information. I'll think about that.
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Old 03-19-2013, 05:25 AM   #9
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I plan to use this service http://www.socialsecuritysolutions.com/ or something similar when I get closer to age 62.
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Old 03-19-2013, 05:51 AM   #10
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That is part of why I'm working now - to increase later SS benefits for both of us. It's not a deal-breaker to take SS now but the later increased benefit is not one to ignore either.

And when I do quit we'll use at least some of the tax-deferred accounts to delay taking SS.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:39 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
But if I don't have it in writing, they could say anything and later on deny it, I guess.
You could have the conversation, take down references, make notes, and track it down afterwards on-line for verification. It seems worth checking into.

Kotlikof (sp?) has a for-pay on-line SS calculator that is said to take into account ALL of your circumstances and the tax consequences.
When Should I Take Social Security to Maximize My Benefits? | Maximize My Social Security
I plan to use it when I get close to leaving the workforce. At the moment, that is two to five years off (somewhere near 70-1/2), as I like what I do these days. Heck, I might use it sooner, for planning.

It requires a lot of detailed information, but he tells you what you will need.

The link in RonBoyd's post above is a review of Kotlikof's work, it turns out.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:41 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by timo2 View Post
Regarding the t. row price and AARP calculators, neither calculator site is encrypted, so I am not going to put my personal information in there. I guess I could use facsimile information. I'll think about that.
Can't you log in as John Smith? If the site does not have your identity, no problem.
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:47 PM   #13
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I ran the T. Rowe Price tool. All I put in was my first name, my birth date, my FRA monthly income, and that I am single. I asked it to maximize benefits over my lifetime. It spit out the same answer that SSA gave me in a table they printed for me that shows what I would receive for any month I retire up age 70. The tool did not include a place to indicate that I am a widower (or divorced if that were the case). In the fine print it says that that may be important. For me, I will collect on my wife's account from when I retire until I reach 70. That is over $1000 per month for several years. For me, it was certainly worth talking to the folks at the local SSA office.
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Old 03-19-2013, 11:59 PM   #14
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But if I don't have it in writing, they could say anything and later on deny it, I guess.
Well they do have this in writing:

Quote:
If you have reached full retirement age, and you are:
  • eligible for a spouse's benefit and your own retirement benefit, you may choose to receive only spouse's benefits.
  • eligible for an ex-spouse's benefit and your own retirement, you may choose to receive only the ex-spouse's benefit. Your ex-spouse needs to be 62 but he or she does not have to have filed for benefits.
If you do that, you can delay applying for your own retirement benefits until a later date to take advantage of delayed retirement credits.


Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse
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Old 03-20-2013, 12:22 AM   #15
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Wow, thanks Katsmeow! I think that is probably exactly what I need.
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Old 04-05-2013, 08:39 AM   #16
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I ran the AARP SS calculator for two earner couples Social Security Calculator and got a result that seemed logical.

A few days later I read this article critical of the free AARP calculator AARP’s Social Security Calculator May Leave You Short, though it links to a firm that wants to sell you an answer.

So I ran the TRP tool, and it made exactly the same 4 step month-year recommendation as the AARP tool. Both said we shouldn't do anything until 2023, so I guess we have time to optimize...
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Old 04-05-2013, 12:26 PM   #17
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......It spit out the same answer that SSA gave me in a table they printed for me that shows what I would receive for any month I retire up age 70.....For me, it was certainly worth talking to the folks at the local SSA office.
This is the second time in the last several months I have seen someone reference a detailed, month-by-month printout from social security. Do I understand you correctly - you went and talked to folks in person at the local SS office, and they were able to provide you with this month-by-month breakdown? If this is the case, it sounds much more useful than the report I access annually on the social security website, which only shows what I would receive at 62, at FRA, or at 70. This would definitely be worth a trip to my local office if they can provide this detailed information.
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Old 04-06-2013, 05:53 PM   #18
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Of all the luck. Wouldn't you know. My exwife chose to run off with a younger guy 6 months before our 10th anniversary. I'm sure her SS is greater than mine and would have been $1200+/month at 50%. Ah nuts!

Cheers!
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Old 04-06-2013, 06:09 PM   #19
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This is the second time in the last several months I have seen someone reference a detailed, month-by-month printout from social security. Do I understand you correctly - you went and talked to folks in person at the local SS office, and they were able to provide you with this month-by-month breakdown? If this is the case, it sounds much more useful than the report I access annually on the social security website, which only shows what I would receive at 62, at FRA, or at 70. This would definitely be worth a trip to my local office if they can provide this detailed information.
I can't get there any more because I'm already collecting, but there was a place on the ssa.gov site where you input all of your annual earnings and you could get an estimate of what your benefit would be. You have to register now and I have no idea where that particular site was. It wasn't hard to find. You can probably do it at the office too. It is MUCH more useful than the report you get annually. Call before you go to the office to find out when they aren't too busy

Try What You Can Do Online and go to "estimate your future benefits". I think you'll probably find it there. They have changed the website and updated everything since I last looked at it.
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Old 04-06-2013, 06:19 PM   #20
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Of all the luck. Wouldn't you know. My exwife chose to run off with a younger guy 6 months before our 10th anniversary. I'm sure her SS is greater than mine and would have been $1200+/month at 50%. Ah nuts!

Cheers!
But were you married to the _____ for 10 years? I'm thinking it was more than 6 months after she ran off with him that you divorced. You should have drawn out those divorce proceedings.
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