GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - This month marks 82 years since Social Security was first introduced to Americans by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
While the program has played a crucial role in providing a financial safety net for many Americans, it also causes one of the biggest headaches for retirees.
Justin Halverson with Great Waters Financial stopped by the KARE 11 News at 4 to bust the top 5 myths surrounding Social Security.
1. Full retirement age is 65. More than seven in ten people surveyed (71 percent) by MassMutual believe that Social Security’s full retirement age (FRA) is 65. This is not true; the full retirement age actually varies depending on the year you were born. You can, however, start claiming Social Security any time between ages 62 and 70, but the longer you wait, the more your monthly benefit amount grows. This could add up to thousands of dollars or more in the long run. However, delaying your claim isn’t the best choice; it depends on your financial situation. Talking to a financial professional who specializes in Social Security can be helpful when deciding.
2. Claiming strategies are easy to decide. Married couples have many decisions to make when it comes to Social Security planning. The first consideration is the variety of ways they can claim their benefits. A single person has nine different claiming options, but for a couple, that number jumps to 81. The difference between the best and worst strategies could be tens of thousands of dollars or more, so it’s important to ensure your Social Security plan makes the most sense for you. Another consideration when planning Social Security is how a spouse’s benefit will change after one spouse passes away. You’ll want to be sure the surviving spouse has a stable income they can rely on, and plan in advance to account for this.
3. Once I start collecting I don’t have to pay taxes anymore. Many retirees don’t realize that income taxes are due on Social Security. Up to 85 percent of Social Security benefits can be taxed, which could take a bite out of your retirement income. Like other retirement income sources, Social Security benefits should be evaluated with the goal of minimizing tax liabilities.
4. Working in retirement will not affect my benefits. More than half of those surveyed (55 percent) by MassMutual incorrectly believe that they can continue working while collecting full Social Security retirement benefits regardless of their age. This is a myth; you can keep all of your Social Security benefits only after you've reached your full retirement age. If you're under your FRA, your Social Security benefit could be reduced by an “earnings test”- for every $2 of wages or self-employment income over $15,720 per year, your Social Security income is reduced by $1. That's yet one more reason it may be a good idea to delay the start of your Social Security income at least until your FRA.
5. I can live comfortably on Social Security benefits. It’s important to remember Social Security was intended to supplement retirement income, not replace it. Currently, the average monthly benefit is $1,406.58, or about $16,872 a year. Yet, for 47 percent of single beneficiaries and 22 percent of married beneficiaries, Social Security represents at least 90 percent of their income. In order to maintain your quality of life as you age, Social Security needs to be just one of many income sources for your retirement years, along with retirement savings accounts and other savings and investments. Plan for longevity – you don’t know how long you will live and life expectancies are only getting longer.