social security benefits planning

Claiming Social Security Benefits

Approaching retirement? Have you thought about when to claim Social Security benefits?

We’ll get to the details in a bit, but first, find out what you already know about this subject by taking a quick quiz:

Full retirement age

Many people have the misconception that full retirement age is when they reach 65. But it actually depends on your birth year. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is when you turn 66. If you were born in 1955, it is 66 and two months. Add two months per year until you reach 1960 and beyond, when full retirement age is 67.

(If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your full retirement age was 65. From 1938 to 1942, retirement age ranges from 65 and two months to 65 and 10 months. You’ve likely already retired.)

Age and claiming

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, you’ll generally get the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter what age you choose to file, assuming you live to average life expectancy.

But the amount you get each month can differ substantially depending on the age at which you file.

You can start claiming Social Security benefits at age 62. Many people opt to do this. As I speak across the country explaining how to plan and maximize your Social Security, I meet all kinds of people that are not getting what they are entitled to. More importantly, the Social Security Administration won’t offer that assistance.  However, your monthly benefits will be about 25 to 30 percent less than if you wait till your full retirement age to file. This is why seeking advise from a Social Security Benefits Planner so you can get a forecast of what your benefits will be.

Top Tips for Business Owners to Maximize Retirement Income

Are you a business owner with an at-home spouse who helps out with bookkeeping or a variety of other tasks that need to be done? Once you get to retirement age it’s too late, but for those of you that are in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or even 50’s there’s still time to let these efforts build future benefits. Paying your spouse at least $4,880 a year will ensure that they continue to vest into the Social security system, which will help you at retirement time.

To fully vest you need to earn 40 credit hours, with a maximum of 4 credits per year at $1220 per credit.  Spouses who are not vested can still pull a half benefit off of their working spouse’s retirement benefit (or ex-spouse’s, if married over 10 years). If widowed after being married 9 months or more, you can draw benefits up to your deceased spouse’s full amount, depending on what age decide to file.

If both spouses have work history the social security retirement benefits picture can drastically change for the better. With two vested partners you’ll also have more options, such as the potential for the lower earning spouse to pull earlier while delaying the higher earning spouse’s filing until age 70 to get the highest benefit. And don’t forget that social security disability benefits are hinged on a person working at least 5 out of the last 10 years, which can help when the worst happens.

As you can see, it’s in your best interest to ensure that the work both partners contribute to your business is recognized as paid employment by the Social Security Administration. We offer a pre-check social security flat fee planning option that will help you review where you are today and give you insight about the impact on future income you can make by ensuring that both spouses are being paid for the work that they do.

Please “Select a Plan” so we can get started on maximizing your social security benefits or take our quiz to find out how much you know about your social security.

Social Security and Railroad Earnings

Working for a railroad means your Social Security benefits may be calculated differently than for other industries. To qualify for a pension from the Railroad Retirement Board, which maintains your record of earnings, you’ll need to have worked for the railroad at least 120 months or 60 months of railroad work that took place after 1995.

  • For railroad workers whose work history includes less than five years of service since 1995 and less than ten total years of railroad work, your railroad earnings will be added to your other work history to calculate your Social Security credits and your benefits from Social Security. To see your earnings history, you can view your Social Security Statement online. Note that railroad earnings prior to 1973 do not show on your statement but are included in calculating the credits shown and your estimated benefits.
  • Workers who have at least ten years of railroad work or five or more years of railroad work since 1995 usually qualify for a pension from the Railroad Retirement Board. The earnings from this railroad will not be used to calculate Social Security credits or benefits.
  • If you’re entitled to a pension from the Railroad Retirement Board, you can still receive Social Security benefits as long as your work history includes enough credits to qualify for Social Security based on your non-railroad employment history. However, your Tier 1 Railroad Retirement Annuity will be reduced if you also receive Social Security.

We are here to help if you would like to project what your retirement income options will look like.  Please go to our “Select a Plan” to learn more and sign up and use RAILROAD2017 to save $50 off any plan.

Social Security for Federal Government Employees

Long-time employees of the Federal government may be confused about their Social Security benefits, and it’s easy to understand why. The U.S. government changed the retirement system for their employees in 1984, and only one of those systems include earnings for Social Security.

Prior to 1984, all employees were covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which did not withhold Social Security taxes from workers’ earnings. As a result, these earnings do not qualify government workers for Social Security credits or benefits.

The retirement system that replaced the CSRS is the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), and under this system Social Security taxes are withheld from workers’ earnings. These earnings are included in calculating Social Security credits and benefits.

Everyone who began working for the Federal government during or after 1984 is covered under Social Security, assuming a sufficient work history to earn the required 40 credits.

Federal employees who switched to the FERS program are also covered under Social Security; all the work they performed after switching to FERS is counted toward their Social Security credits and these earnings are used to calculate benefits.

Some workers who were already covered under CSRS chose to remain under that program after FERS was available. These employees have not contributed into Social Security and are not eligible to receive benefits under the program. However, they are eligible to receiver Medicare Part A coverage after they earn the 40 quarterly credits required of all participants.

We want to help you customize retirement income options and use FEDERAL2017 for $50 off any plan option.

Social Security for Dependent Parents

Dependent Parent Social Security Benefits

Parents take care of us for so many years, and in some cases we are able to help our own parents in their retirement. But what will happen if your dependent parent outlives you?

Very few people know about an important Social Security benefit that can help your financially dependent parent should you pass away before they do. If your parent relies on you for more than half of their living expenses, they may be able to receive benefits in the event of your death. In order to take advantage of this benefit you must have earned enough credits to qualify for Social Security – that’s 40 credit hours – and your parent must:

  • Receive at least half of their support from you
  • Be at least 62 years old
  • Not have remarried since the adult child’s death
  • Not have an individual Social Security benefit that’s more than the potential benefit based on your earnings

This benefit can be an important source of support for your aged parent in the unfortunate event of your death.

If you’d like to learn more about this or other Social Security benefits that can help your family, please contact our office at, or sign up for your Social Security benefit plan today.

Social Security Benefits for Children – Is Your Family Eligible?

Social security benefits for children

There are 4.3 million families that currently receive Social Security benefits to help support their children, but many more are eligible and don’t even know they could be getting additional income each month. Qualifying for this benefit has little to do with the children – it’s based on the parents’ status. (Disabled children may be able to collect Supplemental Security Income benefits based on their condition. They may also qualify for the benefits described in this article but the rules are slightly different.)

In a nutshell, Social Security benefits for children are designed to replace the income that is no longer provided by a parent who has retired, died or become disabled and therefore cannot work. The retired, deceased or disabled parent must have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security and the child must be unmarried and under 18 or a full-time student. Benefits end on the child’s 18th birthday, unless he or she is a full time high school student. In that case, benefits continue until graduation or two months after the child’s 19th birthday, whichever comes first.

Social Security benefits for children can be paid to a parent, step-parent, grandparent or another person who cares for the child (but the benefits may stop earlier in this case). The amount received each month depends on the specifics of the situation and the retired, deceased or disabled parent’s work history. In general, benefits are up to 50% of the full amount of a parent’s disability or retirement benefit or as much as 75% of the amount a deceased parent would have received. If other family members also receive Social Security benefits, a family cap on the amount received applies.

If you think you might qualify for Social Security income for a child in your care, contact our firm today. We’ll help you find out about any financial benefits you may be entitled to and complete the filing process so you can start receiving that income each month.

Business Owners: Stop Screwing Yourself on Social Security!

Social Security for Business Owners

Business owners typically prioritize the success of their company over other financial goals. That’s a good thing in general, but it’s important to keep a balance or you could be creating a host of long-term financial problems for yourself while you’re trying to do the right thing.

A common pattern I see with my clients is that they pay themselves as little as possible and put the vast majority of the available money back into the business. That may be good for the business but it’s not necessarily a smart move for your overall financial picture. When it’s time for retirement, problems arise:

  • Little Social Security income. By keeping the amount you pay yourself low over the years, you deprive yourself of Social Security benefits you might have been able to collect later. The amount of monthly benefit you receive is calculated based on your average earnings over a 35-year period. If you didn’t take pay yourself much, the government won’t either.
  • Minimal retirement savings. When you plough all the profits back into the company you reduce the amount available to fund your personal retirement account. That means you don’t have a substantial nest egg that’s growing to take care of you once you’re ready to hand the business over to new owners.
  • Expecting too much. Selling your business when retirement beckons may deliver a nice bundle to provide for your financial needs in the coming years. Then again, it might not. Economic conditions shift, and the type of business you own can make a huge difference in the amount you can actually sell it for.

Take care of your business, but be sure to look out for your own best interests as well. Paying yourself a fair wage and investing in assets like equities and real estate are just as important as that new equipment or extra staff member your company could use. The money you pay into Social Security and invest privately will work together to give you a higher income in retirement than you’d have otherwise.

If you’re not sure how much you should be paying yourself or investing, please contact us today and we’ll help you find the right balance. You deserve a comfortable retirement!