Articles tagged with: full retirement age

The End of File & Suspend for Married Couples

A great claiming strategy to try & optimize Social Security benefits disappears.

Congress just changed the Social Security benefit rules. On October 30, Capitol Hill lawmakers approved a two-year federal budget deal. As part of that agreement, they authorized the most significant change to Social Security policy seen in this century, disallowing two popular strategies people have used to try and maximize retirement benefits.1

The file-and-suspend claiming strategy will soon be eliminated for married couples. It will be phased out within six months after the budget bill is signed into law by President Obama. The restricted application claiming tactic that has been so useful for divorcees will also sunset.2

This is aggravating news for people who have structured their retirement plans – and the very timing of their retirements – around these strategies.

Until the phase-out period ends, couples can still file and suspend. The bottom line here is simply stated: if you have reached full retirement age (FRA) or will reach FRA in the next six months, your chance to file and suspend for full spousal benefits disappears in Spring of 2016.3

Spouses and children who currently get Social Security benefits based on the work record of a husband, wife, or parent who filed-and-suspended will still be able to receive those benefits.3

How exactly did the new federal budget deal get rid of these two claiming strategies? It made substantial revisions to Social Security’s rulebook.

One, “deemed filing” will only be allowed after an individual’s full retirement age. Previously, it only applied before a person reached FRA. That effectively removes the restricted application claiming strategy, in which an individual could file for spousal benefits only at FRA while their own retirement benefit kept increasing.2

The restricted application claiming strategy will not disappear for everyone, however, because the language of the budget bill allows some seniors grandfather rights. Individuals who will be 62 or older as of December 31, 2015 will still have the option to file a restricted application for spousal benefits when they reach Full Retirement Age (FRA) during the next four years.2

Widows and widowers can breathe a sigh of relief here, because deemed filing has no bearing on Social Security survivor benefits. A widowed person may still file a restricted application for survivor benefits while their own benefit accumulates delayed retirement credits.2

Two, the file-and-suspend option will soon only apply for individuals. A person will still be allowed to file for Social Security benefits and voluntarily suspend them to amass delayed retirement credits until age 70. This was actually the original definition of file-and-suspend.2

Married couples commonly use the file-and-suspend approach like so: the higher-earning spouse files for Social Security benefits at FRA, then suspends them, allowing the lower-earning spouse to take spousal benefits at his or her FRA while the higher-earning spouse stays in the workforce until 70. When the higher-earning spouse turns 70, he/she claims Social Security benefits made larger by delayed retirement credits while the other spouse trades spousal benefits for his/her own retirement benefits.4

No more. The new law says that beginning six months from now, no one may receive benefits based on anyone else’s work history while their own benefits are suspended. In addition, no one may “unsuspend” their suspended Social Security benefits to get a lump sum payment.2

To some lawmakers, file-and-suspend amounted to exploiting a loophole. Retirees disagreed, and a kind of cottage industry evolved around the strategy with articles, books, and seminars showing seniors how to generate larger retirement benefits. It was too good to last, perhaps. The White House has wanted to end the file-and-suspend option since 2014, when even Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, wrote that “eliminating this option is an easy call … when to claim Social Security shouldn’t be a question of gamesmanship for those with the resources to figure out clever claiming strategies.”4

Gamesmanship or not, the employment of those strategies could make a significant financial difference for spouses. Lawrence Kotlikoff, the economist and PBS NewsHour columnist who has been a huge advocate of file-and-suspend, estimates that their absence could cause a middle-class retired couple to leave as much as $70,000 in Social Security income on the table.3

What should you do now? If you have been counting on using file-and-suspend or a restricted application strategy, it is time to review and maybe even reassess your retirement plan. Talk with a financial professional to discern how this affects your retirement planning picture.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com.

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/258629-senate-approves-budget-deal-in-overnight-vote [10/30/15]

2 – marketwatch.com/story/key-social-security-strategies-hit-by-budget-deal-2015-10-30 [11/2/15]

3 – pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/column-congress-pulling-rug-peoples-retirement-decisions/ [11/1/15]

4 – slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/10/budget_deal_closed_social_security_loophole_known_as_file_and_suspend.html [10/30/15]

Planning for Retirement When You Are Single

If you aren’t married, you should consider these potential expenses & needs.

How does retirement planning differ for single people? At a glance, there would seem to be no difference in the retirement saving effort of an individual versus the retirement saving effort of a couple: start early, save consistently, and use vehicles that allow tax-advantaged growth and compounding of invested assets.

On closer inspection, differences do appear – factors that single adults should pay attention to while planning for the future.

Retirement savings must be built off one income. Unmarried adults should save for retirement early and avidly. Most couples have the luxury of creating retirement nest eggs from either or both of two incomes. They can plan to build wealth with a degree of flexibility and synchronization that is unavailable to a single saver. So when it comes to building retirement assets, a single adult has to start early, save big and never let up, as there is no spouse around to help in the effort and only one income from which savings can emerge.

The Social Security claiming decision takes on more importance. An unmarried person’s Social Security benefits are calculated off his or her lifetime earnings record. Simple, cut and dried.1

Married people, however, have an option that the unmarried lack. Once their spouses begin to collect Social Security, they have a chance to claim a spousal benefit as early as age 62 rather than wait for benefits based solely on their own earnings. In fact, they may be able to claim this spousal benefit at age 62 even if they are widowed or divorced. If they are caring for a son or daughter from that marriage who is also receiving some form of Social Security benefits, they may be eligible for a spousal benefit before age 62.2,3  

All this means that a couple can potentially rely on two Social Security incomes before both spouses reach what the program deems full retirement age. An unmarried person cannot exploit that opportunity, so the decision to claim Social Security early at reduced monthly benefits or postpone claiming to receive greater benefits becomes critical.

An unmarried person may someday have a huge need for long term care insurance. If there are no adult children or spouse around to serve as caretakers in the event of a debilitating mental or physical breakdown, an unmarried individual may eventually become destitute from costs linked to that sad consequence. LTC coverage is growing more expensive and fewer carriers are offering it these days, so many married baby boomers are wondering if it is really worth the expense; in the case of a single, unmarried baby boomer retiring solo, it may be.

Housing is often the largest expense for the unmarried. In an ideal world, a single adult could pay half of the monthly housing expense of a married couple. That seldom happens. Relatively speaking, housing costs usually consume much more of a sole individual’s income than the income of a couple. This is true even early in life: according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, married folks in their late twenties spend $7,200 per person less on housing expenses annually. So a single person would do well to find ways to cut down housing expenses, as this frees up more money that can be potentially assigned to retirement saving.1

Saving when single presents distinct challenges. In fact, saving for retirement (or any other financial goal) as a single, unmarried person is often more challenging than it is for a married couple – especially in light of the fact that spouses are given some distinct federal tax advantages. Still, the effort must be made. Start as early as you can, and save consistently.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com 

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 – mainstreet.com/article/retirement-planning-for-singles-how-going-it-alone-makes-saving-different [9/17/15]

2 – oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2015/09/dont_miss_out_on_spousal_socia.html [9/21/15]

3 – ssa.gov/planners/retire/applying6.html [9/24/15]

Apply for Social Security Now … or Later?

 

When should you apply for benefits? Consider a few factors first.

Now or later? When it comes to the question of Social Security income, the choice looms large. Should you apply now to get earlier payments? Or wait for a few years to get larger checks?

Consider what you know (and don’t know). You know how much retirement money you have; you may have a clear projection of retirement income from other potential sources. Other factors aren’t as foreseeable. You don’t know exactly how long you will live, so you can’t predict your lifetime Social Security payout. You may even end up returning to work again.

When are you eligible to receive full benefits?
The answer may be found online at socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm.

How much smaller will your check be if you apply at 62? The answer varies. As an example, let’s take someone born in 1952. For this baby boomer, the full retirement age is 66. If that baby boomer decides to retire in 2014 at 62, his/her monthly Social Security benefit will be reduced 25%. That boomer’s spouse would see a 30% reduction in monthly benefits.1
Should that boomer elect to work past full retirement age, his/her benefit checks will increase by 8.0% for every additional full year spent in the workforce. (To be precise, his/her benefits will increase by .67% for every month worked past full retirement age.) So it really may pay to work longer.2

Remember the earnings limit. Let’s put our hypothetical baby boomer through another example. Our boomer decides to apply for Social Security at age 62 in 2014, yet stays in the workforce. If he/she earns more than $15,480 in 2014, the Social Security Administration will withhold $1 of every $2 earned over that amount.3

How does the SSA define “income”? If you work for yourself, the SSA considers your net earnings from self-employment to be your income. If you work for an employer, your wages equal your earned income. (Different rules apply for those who get Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income checks.)4
Please note that the SSA does not count investment earnings, interest, pensions, annuities and capital gains toward the current $15,480 earnings limit.4

Some fine print worth noticing. If you reach full retirement age in 2014, then the SSA will deduct $1 from your benefits for each $3 you earn above $41,400 in the months preceding the month you reach full retirement age. So if you hit full retirement age early in 2014, you are less likely to be hit with this withholding.4
Did you know that the SSA may define you as retired even if you aren’t? This actually amounts to the SSA giving you a break. In 2014 – assuming you are eligible for Social Security benefits – the SSA will consider you “retired” if a) you are under full retirement age for the entire year and b) your monthly earnings are $1,290 or less. If you are self-employed, eligible to receive benefits and under full retirement age for the entire year, the SSA generally considers you “retired” if you work less than 15 hours a month at your business.2,4
Here’s the upside of all that: if you meet the tests mentioned in the preceding paragraph, you are eligible to receive a full Social Security check for any whole month of 2014 in which you are “retired” under these definitions. You can receive that check no matter what your earnings come to for all of 2014.4

Learn more at socialsecurity.gov. The SSA website is packed with information and user-friendly. One last little reminder: if you don’t sign up for Social Security at full retirement age, make sure that you at least sign up for Medicare at age 65.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
website: cfgiowa.com

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial.

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm [2/26/14]
2 – socialsecurity.gov/retire2/delayret.htm [2/26/14]
3 – socialsecurity.gov/cola/ [2/26/14]
4 – http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf [2/26/14]

Can You Raise Your Social Security Benefits By Reapplying?

Social Security has closed a popular loophole, but all is not lost. 
The “reset button” has been removed. A few years back, the distinguished economist Laurence Kotlikoff alerted people to a loophole in the Social Security framework: retirees could dramatically increase their Social Security benefits by reapplying for them years after they first applied.

It worked like this: upon paying back the equivalent of the Social Security benefits they had received to the federal government, retirees could fill out some simple paperwork to reapply for federal retirement benefits at a later age, thereby increasing the size of their Social Security checks. Figuratively speaking, they could boost their SSI after repaying an interest-free loan from Uncle Sam.

You can’t do this any longer.

In late 2010, the Social Security Administration closed the loophole. Too many retirees were using the repayment tactic, and the SSA’s tolerance had worn thin. (The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College figured that the strategy had cost the Social Security system between $5.5-8.7 billion.)1,2

Today, accumulated Social Security benefits can no longer be repaid with the goal of having the SSA recalculate benefits based on the retiree’s current age. You can only withdraw your request for Social Security benefits once, and you are only allowed to reapply for benefits within 12 months of the first month of entitlement.1,3

Couples can still potentially increase their SSI. This involves using the “file and suspend” strategy once one spouse has reached full retirement age (FRA).

An example: Eric applies for Social Security at age 66 (his FRA). Immediately after filing for Social Security benefits, he elects to have his benefit checks stopped or postponed. As he has technically filed for benefits at full retirement age, his wife Fiona can begin receiving spousal benefits – a combination of her own benefits plus the extra benefits coming to her as a spouse, both reduced by a small percentage for each month that she is short of her FRA. (If she is younger than her FRA, she cannot apply to only receive a spousal benefit.)4

Meanwhile, Eric’s Social Security benefits are poised to increase as long as his checks are halted or deferred. As Eric has hit FRA, he now has the chance to accrue delayed retirement credits (DRCs) and have his benefits enhanced by COLAs between today and the month in which he turns 70.4

Before you claim Social Security benefits, run the numbers. Knowing when to apply for Social Security is crucial. As it may be one of the most important financial decisions you make for retirement, it cannot be made casually. Be sure to consult the financial professional you know and trust before you apply.

Michael Moffitt may be reached at (641) 782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com
Website: www.cfgiowa.com

Securities offered through LPL Financial (LPL), Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Advantage Investment Management, a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and Advantage Investment Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.
This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. Marketing Library.Net Inc. is not affiliated with any broker or brokerage firm that may be providing this information to you. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is not a solicitation or a recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.
1 – www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/withdrawal-policy-pr.html [12/8/10]
2 – www.cbsnews.com/8301-505123_162-37841858/the-end-of-social-securitys-interest-free-loan/ [12/9/10]
3 – www.financial-planning.com/fp_issues/2011_3/under-the-radar-2671684-1.html [3/1/11]
4 – www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/01/30/social-security-qa-how-to-maximize-benefits/ [1/30/12]