When I ask someone, “What is the single largest asset you own?”, what do you think the most common response is? If you said, “My house,” you’d be correct even though that’s not the right answer for many families.
Philip Wilson, in his excellent book, “Maximize Your Social Security,” states that your decision when to begin Social Security is the most important financial decision of your life. He also says that 90% of people get this decision wrong costing them potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, …and they never even know they made a mistake. You can purchase his book at Amazon.com.
My personal example of ‘doing it right’ was my father. First, he never quit working; then, he waited until age seventy to begin drawing Social Security, so he received the maximum payout possible. Finally, and most importantly, he lived until age 99! One additional favorable factor: my mother lived until age eighty-nine, so she received one-half of his benefit until her death. I calculated that he paid in a total of around $250,000 and received total benefits of more than $1.3 million!
The bottom line is that when it is time to make a decision around when to begin Social Security benefits, be sure to work with a professional financial advisor who has experience in this area. It is not enough to rely on information from personnel at the Social Security Administration. In fact, they cannot legally provide advice.
What you should do now, and annually, is review your Social Security income record to make sure it is accurate. Yes, they can make a mistake! This is critically important since it’s your income record that is used to determine your lifetime benefits.
DO THIS NOW
Go to www.ssa.gov/mysocialsecurity and set up an account. Then review your history of earnings to make sure it is recorded accurately. It’s also an excellent time to review your future retirement benefits. Compare your estimated retirement income to a guestimate of what you think you’ll need for your retirement income. This may lead you to reconsider how much you are currently investing for your retirement as well as how you are investing your retirement investing (stock versus bond allocation, etc.).
Here’s a couple of things you should know about your Social Security Report:
- Your retirement income is calculated in today’s dollars, not future dollars. Social Security is indexed for inflation so your actual benefit when you retire will likely be higher than this report shows. For example, last year’s benefits rose by 1.6% due to cost-of-living increases.
- Social Security benefits are based on your highest 35 years of work. If you only work 30 years, the formula includes ‘zeros’ for five of the 35 years. As another example, if you begin collecting Social Security at full retirement age (age 66 for me) and you continue to work, you’ll continue to pay into the Social Security system and could increase your benefits.
- Generally, you are not eligible for retirement benefits unless you have a minimum of 10 years of credited earnings.
Follow The Welch Group every Tuesday morning on WBRC Fox 6 for the Money Tuesday segment.
FOX 6 TALKING POINTS
Check Your Social Security Record for Accuracy
- Go to ssa.gov/mysocialsecurity
- Confirm earnings are accurately recorded
- Review your estimated retirement income
- Adjust retirement investing as appropriate
Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire; and 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. More information about The Welch Group and important Disclosures can be found on our website. Investing in securities involves the risk of loss. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy will be profitable or equal any historical performance level(s). Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.