Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Strategies for Filing for Social Security

Financial planning is a wonderful profession that allows me to help people plan for the future - homes, education, travel, retirement, etc. Over the past five or more years there has been a growing movement to maximize Social Security benefits by employing little known strategies.

There are provisions that allow a couple to add thousands, tens of thousands of dollars to their future retirement income - when you learn the best time and way of applying for Social Security.

If you are too young to even think about SS, then pass this information along to your parents or aunts and uncles. If you are already receiving SS then pass this along to younger friends and your children. There is nothing illegal; but the folks at SS offices, as knowledgeable as they might be, are not aware of some of these provisions.

For example: File & Suspend
A husband reaching 66 (or 67) may file for SS and then suspend receiving payments. By filing, it then allows his wife to file for spousal benefits, receiving a monthly check for the equivalent of half his benefit. He then waits until 70 before activating his benefit which has grown by 8% each year giving him a higher monthly amount and increasing the survivor benefit for his wife.

Or someone who has been divorced may receive a higher benefit if he/she applies for spousal benefits from the ex-spouse and allows his/her benefit to grow until age 70, It has NO impact on the amount the former spouse receives! But you must have been married 10 years or longer. So for anyone contemplating divorce and nearing the 10 year mark, delay the final divorce decree until you reach 10 years.

Be $ Smart - Find a trusted financial planner who is familiar with Social Security Strategies. You may reap many years of benefits that will far exceed his/her fee!

Words of Wisdom

With graduations just behind us we often think of offering guidance to young people as they embark on life's journey. Here are two thoughts to pass along which I found in a WSJ column.

The path to long-term wealth includes:
- living within your means,
- a commitment to putting away so much money each year,
- allocating those long-term savings wisely among stocks, bonds and cash using low-cost, passively managed mutual funds, index funds and ETF's,
- and keeping costs (fees and taxes) associated with those investments as low as possible.

Be aware of "life-style creep".
As you climb the corporate ladder or wend your way through a career, each pay raise will bring new opportunities and choices.

How you handle those raises can be critical.
Think about spending the new money in ways that will bring enjoyment, but not commit you to an immediate and future higher spending level.

Commit to spending "just" half the raise for enjoyment and allocating the other half to ongoing savings.
Reaching financial independence will get easier and come sooner as well.

Be $ Smart - Over-spending and over-eating have consequences; diets are never fun.