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Social Security Can Be Tricky

Jessica Lanning
July 2021

The vast majority of my clients don’t rely exclusively on Social Security to meet their income needs when they’re no longer working for a salary, and most of my younger, more affluent clients don’t even want it factored into their planning because they’re not optimistic they’ll see any of it. That’s no surprise, given that the media has made it very easy to “write off” Social Security. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored, perhaps especially if you’re a high-income earner.

What investors fail to compute is that even a small amount of income from an outside source can have a large impact over time. A client starting to receive $20,000 in Social Security income at age 70 will receive about half a million dollars in payments by age 90. That’s money a client didn’t have to take out of retirement plans to meet living expenses, meaning that money has to keep growing. That lowly half a million dollars over 20 years could accumulate to nearly an additional $800,000. That could pay for a kid’s wedding, a down payment on a kid’s home, pay for a second home, pay for long-term care expenses. The list goes on.

Pay attention to these points:

● Timing can be critical. The age at which you take Social Security has an impact on how much you get and how much your spouse may get. Spousal planning, especially for couples with large age gaps or if one of the spouses is not a US citizen, is important.
● Watch your assumptions. Make sure your beliefs about Social Security are accurate. People often think they have to wait until 70 to get the 30% bump in Social Security, but these payments rise gradually from full retirement age (66-67) until they max out at 70. Starting payments at 68 or 69 can make a big difference in your life.
● Check your history. I encourage everyone to open up an account at and check their work history. Mistakes happen: People marked the wrong gender, income not reported, and so on. These mistakes are easier to fix if caught early. Otherwise, you might be stuck with them.

If you need assistance with Social Security planning, please reach out