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File Early or File Late - The "Big" Social Security Question

Season #2

Should you delay filing for Social Security or claim early, discover the surprising answer that trips most retirees up and can get you up to 175% more in benefits.

Can You Really Increase Your Social Security Benefits by 175%?

Yes! You absolutely can. In fact, if you don't believe me go to the social security website, pull up your statement and look on the bottom left of it. It has a whole list of all the people who can get benefits under your work history. And on there it says the maximum family benefit, which is 175%. Of your social security. So there are all these people, which includes your spouse, your surviving spouse, children, parents. There's a long list of people who can get paid on your work history.

Once you start factoring in those other "family" benefits, it can really start adding up. And no, you don't have to be dead in order for most of them to claim these benefits!

Isn't Delaying The Only Way to Increase Social Security Benefits?

If you read any financial magazine or newspaper it would be easy to believe that delaying benefits is the only way to increase your social security check...but that simply isn't the case. And while simple statement sound great, and they make for great click bait headlines...the truth is that maximizing your social security check is about so much more.

It isn't about "delaying as long as possible," or your "break-even" point, or auntie IRMMA. All those thing make great headlines, but they have nothing to do with your reality. This is what I tell every single person. Unless you're single, unmarried, and don't have kids, delaying social security benefits is probably not your best option. And even if you're single unmarried it still might not be your best option.

In fact, I just told a couple this morning to both file early, even though it reduce their benefits by a significant amount. I told them to take early because it would take the pressure off of their portfolio, and would make their retirement last so much longer.

And in fact, it added something like a million dollars to their retirement savings over the next 20 years just by taking social Security early. So the answer is really different for everyone, and you really, you gotta map it out to find out what is the ideal filing age for both you and your spouse.

What About "File & Suspend?"

It used to be you had your social security benefits, and you also could get benefits under someone else's benefits, such as your spouse. You were also able to tell Social Security, Hey, listen, I'm gonna claim my spousal benefits, but I want my personal benefits to continue to delay and accrue deferral credits. Allowing both spouses to max out their benefits.

...But congress took this benefit away in what I call a "stealth tax."  Congress created a rule called the "deemed filing" rule.This rule, ostensibly was to close the loophole of all these people who are taking advantage of the social security system and doing things like this file and suspend. When in reality what they did was take away benefits that you earned.

Now, the only way they can get those spousal benefits is if both you and your spouse file for social security. So now, the breadwinner needs to figure out when do they file, and then the secondary spouse, the one who was, staying at home with the kids who didn't have that big grade income. They really need to figure out whether to file, file early or file late. And so this becomes a huge calculus that you gotta think about is not just, my benefits when I'm living, but my benefits when I die. And the benefits of my children, or my dependent parents who can also claim on my social security. And oftentimes, claiming a little bit early will end up actually getting you more lifetime money than if you delay and get a a bigger personal check.

The Simple Solution to Social Security

Creating a successful retirement plan is not as simple as plugging numbers into a computer program. While there are tools available that claim to do just that, they fail to take important contextual information into account. To truly create the retirement experience we desire, we must consider all of the factors at play.

This is where a process comes in. When working with clients, I follow a specific process that takes into account their income needs during retirement, social security options, and other assets that will need to be converted into retirement income. By analyzing these factors together, we can determine the best course of action for each individual's unique situation.

It's important to note that the hard work of determining what makes the most sense cannot be avoided.

It's necessary to go over everything and see what will give us the most amount of money both in the short and long-term future while also considering surviving spouses or beneficiaries.

I've found that even when I thought I knew the answer before talking with someone, I was often surprised by the results once we went through this process together. For example, delaying Social Security benefits or finding ways to increase income by $15,000 per year can have a huge impact on someone's ability to stay retired.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to retirement planning. Each person's calculus is different and requires careful consideration of all relevant factors. By doing this hard math together though, we can create a plan that truly meets our individual goals and desires for retirement.

My 3 Step Process for Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits

So the question becomes what are the question to ask? And this is the process that I do for everyone. I do it for free, for anyone who takes the time to actually book some time on my calendar and go through this process.

Step #1: Define Your Income Needs in Retirement

First, we take a look at what is your income needs in retirement. What do you need to live on? What are you expenses?

Step #2: What Are Your Income Sources in Retirement

Number two, we take a look, social security, claiming early, claiming late. What is the ideal filing strategy? What will get you the theoretical most amount of money? And then we run some analyses and we see based on the amount of money that we need in retirement, based on what assets we have, what can we convert in to income in retirement. How do we bring those three things together so that we create the best experience for ourselves? What gives us the most amount of money in the immediate future? What gives us the most amount of money in the long-term future? What is best for our surviving spouse? And for our children or the people who we want to leave money to when we pass? Those are the questions that we need to ask. There is no way around doing the hard work to figure it out.

Step #3: Stress Test Our Decision

How does our decision hold up over time? Often the obvious decision for today is not so attractive when looked through the light of the future. We need to project our our decisions, run the numbers, and see how they impact us today, tomorrow, and long in to the future.

If you would like help with your retirement planning, book a free Retirement & Tax SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats.) Click here to book today.