Social Security Tips You Should Know: A Guide to A Secure Retirement

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By Mike DuBose

The History of Social Security and Its Future—Will It Last?
 

Social Security has its roots in America’s Great Depression of the 1930s. When the stock market crashed, more than 10,000 uninsured banks failed, and many people saw their savings evaporate almost overnight. Unemployment rates reached nearly 25%, families struggled to keep food on the table, and senior citizen poverty rates exceeded 50%! To combat the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal, a series of laws, programs, and reforms designed to put people back to work, resuscitate the economy, and prevent such a financial disaster from reoccurring.

One key component of the New Deal was the Social Security Act of 1935. Before the Act, which was designed to provide unemployment insurance for workers and pay those aged 65 or older a continuing income after retirement, the United States was the only modern industrialized nation in the world without a safety net. Previously, individuals relied on charity, government or company pensions, and family support to fund their twilight years…or simply never retired, working until they couldn’t anymore.

In the nearly 85 years since its passage, the Social Security Act has seen numerous changes. Amendments made in 1958 and 1961 lowered the age at which women and men could begin drawing Social Security benefits from 65 to 62. One of the most significant changes was passed in 1965 and provided federal health insurance—what we now know as Medicare—for individuals 65 and older, with the option to purchase supplemental insurance. Medicare was extended to include individuals receiving disability benefits in 1972. 

Since the first-ever Social Security check, written to Ida May Fuller for about $22, was cashed in 1940, millions of people have received benefits through the Social Security Act. In 2020, approximately 65 million people (greater than 1 in every 6 residents) will collect Social Security totaling more than $1 trillion, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Four out of every five of these beneficiaries are older Americans, with the disabled and survivors of deceased workers making up the other one-fifth.

Funding for Social Security and Medicare comes from payroll taxes, often referred to as FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act). Employees and employers spilt the FICA taxes owed, each paying 7.65%, and self-employed individuals pay 15.3% total. The maximum gross salary that will be FICA-taxed in 2020 will be about $138,000. Of the nearly 180 million US workers who paid into the Social Security system in 2019, nearly 94% earn less than $138,000 per year.

Despite the tax revenues flowing in, however, Social Security faces a serious budget shortfall. This is due to a number of factors, including that Americans are living longer. The SSA notes, “In 1940, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was almost 14 years; today it is just over 20 years.” The longer that people who have reached the Social Security retirement age live, the more money they draw out of the system. Also, the segment of the population aged 65 and older is growing (from 56 million today to a projected 78 million by 2035, according to the SSA), which  means that a larger percentage of the population will be relying on a smaller percentage of those of working age to pay into the system (in fact, the SSA says that, by 2035, there will only be 2.3 workers for each Social Security beneficiary, down from 2.8 today). Adding additional stress to the budget, Medicare costs are rising, and more people are opting to take Social Security early for reduced benefits at age 62.

The current federal budget is about $4.75 trillion, of which roughly 24% is allocated to Social Security (add in Medicaid and Medicare, and those three programs take up a whopping 60% of the budget!). Unfortunately, by 2035, the costs of Social Security are expected to rise to the point that taxes will only be sufficient to pay for 75% of benefits, according to the Social Security Trustees. Economists and experts have proposed several strategies that will help close the gap between funding and need. These include delaying the age at which individuals can start drawing Social Security and Medicare; increasing the $138,000 FICA-taxable salary ceiling; and raising the Medicare percentage that employees pay. However, raising taxes is generally a negative political move, and increasing the retirement age is very unpopular with voters over 65, 71% of whom voted in the 2016 election, according to AARP. Politicians could fix the budget shortfall, but due to their fears of voter retribution, there are currently no movements to shore up Social Security and Medicare to ensure that there are enough revenues to pay beneficiaries in the future! Social Security has enough assets to cover current checks and benefits, as well as those for individuals nearing retirement, through 2032. However, based on recent reports, the SSA will be taking in less income than it disburses. The trust fund will begin to dwindle without action from Congress…but while problems are brewing, politicians’ focus is on winning votes for the upcoming elections, and not on ensuring that all Americans will receive their fair share of Social Security. Now is not the time to panic, but it’s important to educate yourself to make sure your future is secure!

 

Planning Before Applying for Social Security
 

Due to many factors, the program is likely to undergo significant changes in the coming years, and it is vital to plan ahead when it comes to how you will apply for and manage your Social Security benefits. Although people of all ages should conduct thorough assessments of their finances and develop informed strategies, it is particularly important for those nearing retirement age.  In a 2018 Wall Street Journal article, Glenn Ruffenach reported on an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey of workers and their spouses indicating some shocking attitudes toward retirement planning:

  • 62% did not know the amount of Social Security they would receive at retirement.
  • 69% had not developed a budget to determine how much income they would need to comfortably cover living expenses.
  • 77% hadn’t considered the amount of money they will need to withdraw from savings and investments during retirement.
  • Less than 20% had determined how much they would need to dedicate to health expenses during retirement.

As demonstrated by this survey, many individuals and couples stumble into retirement without thinking through all of the details. Failure to consider all of the possibilities can lead to retirees being blindsided by a number of scenarios, such as serious health problems arising; a need for long-term, skilled nursing care; or a spouse dying prematurely. Some may realize too late that they have inadequate savings or insurance coverage, especially if they live longer than they expected. In addition, many people do not know that they will likely undergo emotional and mental stress when transitioning into retirement after decades in the workforce. In fact, retirement ranks as one of the top 10 life stressors on the famous Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale! 

The DuBose family has a saying: “Hope for the best; plan for the worst.” This applies to many situations in life, retirement included. It’s critical to plan for as many eventualities as possible before applying for Social Security so that you can have a happier, more secure retirement. Focusing on financial preparation, the following are some strategies to address some common trouble spots.  

Develop a retirement file. In the final years before you retire (it comes faster than you think!), gather all documents pertaining to your retirement—articles from the AARP and reputable publications that you think will be helpful, documents you receive from the Social Security Administration, statements from financial institutions, etc.—into one centralized file. Include a balance sheet or chart listing all investments, assets, and liabilities, including account numbers, where the accounts are located, usernames, and passwords. This will give both you and your spouse the ability to access the funds in case something happens to one of you. 

Set up an online account with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Go to ssa.gov, select “My Social Security,” and then choose “Set Up an Account.” When you apply for an account, the SSA will ask you a series of questions and conduct a background check to verify your identity. This will include a “soft inquiry” to the Experian credit bureau, so if you have frozen your credit (as we strongly suggest to protect your financial information from thieves), you will have to temporarily unlock your Experian account until your SSA application is completed. Fortunately, freezing and unfreezing the account can be done easily online. 

Once your online SSA account is activated, you will be able to review your past earnings, order Medicare and Social Security cards, obtain an estimate of how much Social Security you can draw based on your income, make an appointment at your nearest Social Security office, apply for Social Security and Medicare, ask a representative to call you with answers to your questions, and more. One word of caution, though: when speaking with Social Security representatives about questions you have, be sure to double-check their answers…we have sometimes received conflicting responses over the last few years!

Join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). This organization is a valuable source of up-to-date information on retirement and Social Security that can help you adjust your retirement plans as time passes. There are no longer any age restrictions for AARP memberships, which also entitle you to a 15% discount on some travel expenses (certain hotels, car rentals, cruises, etc.). Memberships cost as little as $15 per year.

Estimate your lifespan. It can be a difficult subject to think about, but having a rough idea of how long you and your spouse will live will allow you to ensure that you don’t run out of money to support yourself in some of your most vulnerable years. It can also impact when you decide to apply for Social Security and Medicare. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), the average male who turns 65 this year will live until age 84; females turning 65 will live to nearly 87 years old. Of course, no one knows exactly when they will die, but online life expectancy calculators can provide you with some good guesses. Our preferred estimator is Livingto100.com, which assesses a wide range of lifestyle factors for its projections.  It is also helpful to consult with your physician (preferably, an internist) to solicit his or her input on your potential lifespan based on your current medical conditions. Finally, examine your genetic path—how long your close relatives (parents, siblings, and grandparents) lived. While imperfect, these methods combined can provide you with a rough expected range of lifespans for you and your spouse. Keep in mind, though, that medical research is rapidly advancing, which may extend your lives even longer!

Use your lifespan estimates to develop retirement plans addressing different scenarios. For example, if married, one plan should consider the potential for a spouse to die prematurely, reducing Social Security income to one check. Another might deal with the possibility that both spouses live well into their 90s, which will produce greater health or other expenses and may even necessitate costly skilled nursing care. With all plans, estimate expenses liberally and strive to meet your goal savings amounts for the highest level of financial security. 

Develop an accurate budget. Before applying for Social Security, you need a good projection of what you can expect to spend—and take in—during retirement. To paint this picture, develop a strong, fact-based budget. At least 12 months before you are considering retiring (preferably, two to three years before), begin tracking each month’s income and expenses. Ideally, you should plug this information into an Excel spreadsheet so the formula will automatically adjust when you make changes, but the budget can also be handwritten. Over many decades as an entrepreneur and business owner, I learned that one should err on the side of caution when developing a budget, so I advise that you project income conservatively and expenses liberally. 

One easy way to track expenses is to pay nearly all bills by check or credit card (and pay off the balance each month), which creates a paper trail for reference; as a bonus incentive, credit cards can also generate perks like hotel and airline points. If you are about to retire, you can make a projection on annual costs using a few months of expenses but know that some bills, like utilities, may fluctuate depending on the time of year. People often fail to factor in periodic large expenses, such as home repairs, replacing a vehicle, or unexpected costs, but you should think of as many of these scenarios as possible and include them in your projections to be on the safe side. 

One of the most overlooked budget expenses, according to an October 2019 Wall Street Journal column by Glenn Ruffenach, is long-term health care. Ruffenach cited US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 7 in 10 Americans turning 65 this year will need long-term care either at home or a facility, and 20% will require it for five years or longer. Costs vary greatly based on location and the degree of care provided, but as of press time, home care runs about $50,000 a year, assisted living in a facility $36,000, and skilled nursing care about $130,000! These pricey but necessary services have drained many retirement funds, so make sure to set aside a financial “cushion” in case they become necessary for you or your spouse.

In terms of income, investing in the right stocks can be a wise long-term strategy. However, the stock market can be volatile, which can wreck a steady income stream (as many experienced during the Great Recession and the recent COVID-19-related crashes). As you approach retirement, you will want to diversify your assets into reliable stocks, bonds, federally-insured Certificates of Deposit (CDs) or savings accounts (like those offered by American Express Bank) and some cash that you can access quickly. Most experts suggest that you plan to withdraw 3% and no more than 4% of your savings annually as you age to avoid running out of money. Finally, as a goal, strive to retire debt-free to eliminate unexpected threats in case income dips. 

Developing a good budget can be labor-intensive, but it’s the best way to plan for future expenses! Once you complete your evaluation, you can determine how much Social Security will be needed to retire comfortably when combined with your other revenue streams. (Note that I use the word “comfortably” throughout this series, because you don’t want to turn the “Golden Years” into the “Unexpectedly Painful Years!”). Ideally, Social Security should be supplemental, not your primary source of income. 

Hire a trustworthy Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Ask friends for recommendations and conduct online research to find a reputable professional (preferably, one who is not commission-based and paid by the hour) to guide you in budgeting and other financial decisions pertaining to retirement. Obtaining professional feedback on your budget will help ensure that your estimates on how much money you must save before retiring, as well as amounts you’ll need to generate from investments, stocks, pensions, savings, Social Security, etc., are in line with reality and expert opinion. 

The decisions you make when planning for retirement and applying for Social Security and Medicare will be some of the most important in your lifetime. Since you may live for decades after retiring, the choices you make beforehand will follow you for many years. Do your research and consider the advice in this column to raise your chances of a great outcome rather than a nightmare!

 

Deciding When to Apply for Social Security
 

Individuals nearing retirement face many decisions, and one of the most crucial is when to begin drawing Social Security. For the majority of retirees, Social Security payments will serve as their primary source of income. Therefore, maximizing benefits can mean the difference between living comfortably or struggling to get by! 

Social Security gives workers the option to begin drawing benefits anytime between age 62 and 70 (widows and widowers may start drawing survivors’ benefits at age 60). The “full retirement age,” which is when a person can retire and receive full benefits, is currently 66 and four months for individuals who turned 62 in 2018 and 66 and six months for those who turned 62 in 2019. The full retirement age for people born in 1960 or later is 67. 

More than half of Social Security recipients—57%, according to a 2018 USA Today column—begin their benefits before reaching their full retirement age. Drawing Social Security as soon as possible, however, may lead to some regrets. In a May 2018 USA Today article, Russ Wiles reported that 38% of current Social Security recipients in a MassMutual study “wished they had waited longer.” Wiles noted, “More than half said they decided to claim benefits at an early age owing to a financial need, with one in three citing issues such as health problems or employment changes. But six in 10 respondents admitted that they didn't receive advice before making this key decision.”

The longer you wait to begin drawing Social Security, the larger your eventual reward. For each year past the minimum age of 62 that you wait to apply, your monthly check will increase by 8% (or more!). Delaying until you reach age 70 can increase your monthly payments by more than 75% …yet Social Security Administration (SSA) figures show that less than 4% of people wait that long. (Of course, by waiting to draw, you will not receive benefits for those years, so that must be considered as well.)

Clearly, many complex factors come into play when making the decision of when to apply for Social Security. Every retiree’s situation is different, and what makes sense for one may not be the wisest move for another. The following are some of the most common questions Americans ask when making this tricky and complex decision, along with some answers based on current research and expert opinions.

With all the news about deficits, is Social Security secure? Over the last decade, I have heard many people say, “You had better apply now, because it’s not going to be around much longer!” While it’s correct that Social Security is headed for financial trouble if changes are not made, there are still enough funds to pay everyone’s full benefits through 2032. (If things continue as they are, however, beginning in 2035, there will only be enough assets to pay retirees 3/4 of their monthly checks!) Retirees are a powerful voting force, and this has made politicians hesitant to enact any changes to Social Security. Eventually, they will be forced to make adjustments to ensure the program’s solvency, which will almost undoubtedly mean raising the full retirement age and the salary ceiling for Social Security and Medicare taxes. However, it’s unlikely that any changes will impact those who are drawing now or individuals who will begin receiving Social Security within the next ten years, so this is not a reason to rush to apply. 

Can’t I make more money by drawing at 62 and investing the funds? There are few vehicles that will allow you to match the 8% increase you’d gain for each year delaying your Social Security application, other than the stock market. The issue with the stock market is that it’s risky. No one knows how it will behave in the future, so you can’t guarantee a certain rate of return each year. Our stock market is tied to world financial institutions, and things like tariffs or changes in the economies of other countries (such as China or many European nations) can drive market shares down. Recessions also occur; currently, the stock market is seeing a downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Now and during other market corrections, rather than selling all or part of your stocks, experts advise you to patiently wait for the market to rise again.) 

As you enter retirement, it’s a good idea to park your funds in moderate to conservative assets to minimize risk. If you hold Social Security up to an annuity, though, it’s hard to find one that compares! Social Security is guaranteed for life, you’ll receive cost-of-living raises corresponding with inflation, and benefits may be transferred to your spouse upon your death. 

Will I really receive that much more if I wait to apply until 70 years old? While your benefit will vary according to your salary and work history, the maximum Social Security benefit that an individual filing at age 70 can receive per month in 2020 is $3,790. At full retirement age, the maximum check would be $3,011; for someone who has filed early at 62, the amount would be $2,265. While these are maximum benefits and your check may be less, these numbers underscore the significant difference in benefits between applying at 62 and 70: an extra $18,300 per year! 

Another important aspect to consider is how much you might receive over your lifetime. A high earner who applies for Social Security today at age 62 and lives another 20 years would receive (without any cost-of-living raises) about $540,000 total. If that same person were to apply at 70, he or she would receive nearly $905,000 over the next 20 years, for a difference of $365,000! 

A third factor in favor of delaying Social Security is that the amounts you receive are based on the 35 best years of your salary. If you did not work for any of those 35 years, that year will be considered $0 when calculating your payments. By working an additional eight years and applying at 70, you’ll replace eight lower-salaried years with higher figures, resulting in increased monthly payments. You may review your salary history by setting up an account at ssa.gov. 

How long do I need to live after retiring to make applying at 70 years old versus 62 worthwhile? While it may vary, the breakeven point to reap the maximum, long-range rewards of delaying benefits until 70 is about 80 years old. Married couples should take care to examine the Social Security benefits each person is entitled to, since one spouse may draw a larger check than the other. Although it is unpleasant to think about, couples must consider that eventually, one spouse will die, leaving only one check for the survivor to cover household expenses. 

Can I apply for a spousal benefit from my divorced or deceased spouse? In many cases, you can draw from your spouse’s Social Security account if you were married to the person for ten or more years, whether he or she is alive or deceased. This may even apply to marriages that ended in divorce! (Some restrictions may apply, so you will need to conduct further research with the SSA to see if this applies to you.) 

Can I work and draw Social Security? Yes—but there are restrictions. Individual circumstances may vary, but for the most part, if you wait until your full retirement age of 66, you can make a salary and draw your full Social Security benefit without penalty. However, if you begin drawing Social Security between 62 and 65, you will be penalized on the money you make above the limit ($18,240 in 2020). For early retirees, the SSA will withhold $1 out of your monthly Social Security check for every $2 you make above that limit; for the self-employed, the SSA uses net income for the calculation. Therefore, if you plan to continue working, consider waiting until your full retirement age or later to draw Social Security.

Are my years in the military reflected in the formula used to calculate my benefits? According to the SSA, earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957. Social Security has covered inactive duty service in the armed forces reserves (such as weekend drills) since 1988. You can receive both Social Security benefits and military retirement, and generally, there is no reduction of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement benefits. Consequently, you should check your account at ssa.gov to ensure that all military credits have been applied when SSA calculates your monthly check. 

Can I change my mind after I have already started drawing Social Security? Yes—but you may only do this once, according to the SSA. “If you are receiving Social Security Retirement benefits and you change your mind about when they should start, you may be able to withdraw your Social Security claim and re-apply at a future date. However, if you change your mind 12 months or more after you became entitled to retirement benefits, you cannot withdraw your application,” the SSA website notes. To withdraw your Social Security application, complete Form SSA-521, which is available at ssa.gov. You must also repay the benefits you or your family have received within the last 12 months (the SSA will notify you of how much you owe after you submit your withdrawal request). To ensure that your request is processed correctly, contact your local Social Security office (preferably in person, if possible, with your checkbook and completed form in hand) to discuss the withdrawal application.

How can my partner and I work together to maximize our benefits? In some cases, both spouses can piggyback on the other’s accounts to maximize their benefits. For example, Spouse A can suspend their benefits until 70 and apply for half of the higher earner (Spouse B)’s Social Security. Then, when Spouse A applies for their own Social Security, Spouse B can apply for the other half of their Social Security that they would have drawn at 66. This strategy gets complicated and requires contact the Social Security office to examine the options. The most important factor is to wait until both spouses are at their full retirement age to avoid penalties.

Are my Social Security benefits taxed? Depending on your income, your Social Security benefits will likely be subject to federal taxation by the IRS. Nobody pays taxes on more than 85 percent of their Social Security benefits, regardless of income, and retirees with incomes of about $44,000 or less annually (either from retirement plans or additional earnings) probably won't pay taxes on their Social Security benefits. South Carolina is one of few states that does not tax Social Security, which attracts many retirees. Consult with your tax advisor to identify and manage your tax liabilities. 

Under what circumstances should I consider drawing prior to my full retirement age? Each case is different, but if you do not have adequate savings to live in retirement, believe that you will have a shortened lifespan, have huge medical and other bills, are unemployed with dim prospects for future employment, or have significant health issues, then, an early application for Social Security may be in your best interest. However, proceed cautiously and seek expert advice. A consultation with a certified financial planner who is well-versed in Social Security can help you sort out the pros and cons of drawing early and make a wise decision.

 

How to Apply for Social Security
 

Knowing when to apply for Social Security can be difficult. There are many complex variables in place and potential scenarios to consider. However, with research to fully understand your potential Social Security benefits and thorough planning for the future, you can make an informed decision about when to apply. 

Once you have determined when you would like to begin drawing Social Security, begin the application process about three months prior to that date. There are several ways to get started, depending on your situation: you can call the SSA, apply online, or visit in person, if the office is open. (The SSA does not accept applications through postal mail.) The following are some reflections on the different application strategies based on personal experience, research, and expert advice. 

Method 1: Call the national Social Security Administration (SSA): You may initiate the Social Security process by phoning the SSA’s toll-free number (1-800-772-1213). Hours may vary, but are generally Monday through Friday, 7 AM to 7 PM EST. According to the SSA website, Monday and Tuesday are the heaviest call days, so consider calling on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday to minimize wait times. (Try to call from 10:00-11:00 AM or 2:00-3:00 PM EST to avoid employee lunch hours and times that are popular with other applicants.) In my experience, calling the general 800-number was the least efficient, most time-consuming method, and I often received conflicting (or sometimes, flat-out incorrect) information from SSA representatives over the telephone.  

Method 2: Create an online account: Go to ssa.gov, click on “Sign In/Up” at the top right of the webpage, select “My Social Security,” and then click “Create New Account.” Once you have established your account, you’ll gain access to many resources and options, including the ability to formally apply for Social Security and Medicare. Note: although most individuals will be able to complete their applications online through ssa.gov, if you are applying for a spousal benefit, you may need to visit your local SSA office with your partner (if the office is open) to finalize the process.

One unique benefit of creating an online account is that you can request a call back from an SSA customer care representative, which eliminates the need to wait on the telephone line if you have questions (these professionals also tended to be more competent than those I spoke with when directly calling the SSA). You can also use your account to make an appointment at your local Social Security office. 

Method 3: Visit a local Social Security office: If you plan to go to your local SSA office (find the closest location to you at ssa.gov) to apply in person, I strongly recommended that you make an appointment 30 or more days before your visit! You can do this online or by calling the SSA’s toll-free number. Do not try to make an appointment by calling your local SSA office, since they do not make reservations. 

Even if only one spouse is applying, both should attend in case SSA representatives would like both spouses present to examine each other’s information and explore options with you. SSA office hours at the Strom Thurmond Federal Building at 1835 Assembly Street in Columbia, SC are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday between 9 AM-4 PM and Wednesdays 9 AM-noon. (The coronavirus pandemic may impact these hours, so you’ll want to confirm beforehand.)

Whichever office you visit, arrive early. You will need to go through a security screening and will be directed to a waiting area. If you have an appointment, be sure to tell the security agents! With a scheduled visit, you should see an SSA representative within an hour. If you do not have an appointment, the wait could be several hours, so bring plenty of reading materials, some water, and maybe even some snacks with you. Avoid bringing children, who will likely be bored by the long wait.  

Your experience may vary depending on your location, but my wife and I had dismal service walking in without an appointment at our local office in Columbia, SC. After passing through security, we entered a room filled with about 100 people. There was a machine to the left of the entrance where we could enter the reason for our visit and whether we had an appointment, and we received a slip with a number from the kiosk. A monitor displayed the order that the numbers would be called (it did not work on the day we were present), and the agents called out the numbers they were serving as they reached them. Everyone was served in the order they arrived, even if they had only minor requests or quick questions. It’s unfortunate there was not a customer service desk when we arrived to screen applicants, which could greatly improve the SSA office’s efficiency!

Complete all SSA forms in advance and bring them with you, along with the other information, identification. and forms you will need: a pad and pen to take notes; an original birth certificate with a raised imprint (you can secure one from DHEC); your Social Security card (you can order one online); an updated driver’s license (preferably, one of the new Real ID ones); your marriage license; proof of employment and your last IRS Form W-2; passport (if you have one); a copy of your U.S. military service papers, such as your DD-214 (if applicable); your Social Security Statement or a record of your earnings (which can be obtained online if you did not receive one in the mail); a copy of a bank statement and a utility bill with your name and address on them; your children’s birth certificates (if they are aged 19 and under); a check showing your bank’s routing and account numbers for direct deposits; and any additional correspondence from the SSA. It’s unlikely that all of these documents will be necessary, but it’s best to bring more than you need rather than have to return later.

Next steps: Once you have completed your application, you should receive a confirmation by postal mail, e-mail, or message through your ssa.gov online account. It should take about 6-8 weeks for the SSA to approve your application; you may check the progress via your online account. Watch out for scams! It is very unlikely that an SSA rep would contact you by telephone, so beware of any calls purporting to be from the SSA. 

In my research, I’ve identified more than 81 different ways to apply for Social Security, so it can be a very complex process! It’s always helpful to ask any SSA representative you speak to (regardless of how you contact them) for advice or other options to consider. You don’t want to miss out on any extra income that you may be eligible to receive! 

The Bottom Line: Most Social Security experts recommend that those who are retiring should use their savings and retirement funds first to meet expenses, delaying their Social Security application to allow it to grow 8% or more per year. Every situation is unique, though, so I recommend educating yourself about Social Security to help make the best possible decisions. Talk to experts, including your financial and tax advisors, and read about the different aspects of Social Security (I recommend the book Social Security Made Simple by Mike Piper, CPA, which is available on Amazon). With many Americans living into their 90s and beyond, it’s smart to aim for as much money coming in for as long as possible to achieve a comfortable and secure retirement!

 

 

Visit Mike DuBose’s nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for 100+ published articles on business, travel, retirement, and personal topics, and health columns written with Surb Guram, MD, as well as a free copy of his book, The Art of Building a Great Business, based on 30 years of experience with the DuBose Family of Companies and 100 bestselling business books he read. Mike is a retired staff member of the University of South Carolina’s graduate school.

© Copyright 2020 by Mike DuBose—All Rights Reserved. You are encouraged to share this full article with credits to help others in accordance with our purpose: “To create opportunities to improve lives.”

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