Social Security

Social Security Benefits Are Getting a Nice Boost in 2019

Social Security Benefits Are Getting a Nice Boost in 2019

Good news, Social Security beneficiaries! Every year in mid-October, the Social Security Administration announces any cost-of-living adjustments to benefits – or “COLAs.” On October 12, the agency said that Social Security recipients would see a 2.8% COLA in 2019.

Until now, the 2018 cost-of-living adjustment had been the largest bump-up in benefits since 2012. What accounted for the heftier increase this year?

A rise in the cost of energy products, not to mention an increasing cost of shelter, were big inflationary contributors, according to experts. Both of those cost categories have heavy weightings within the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), the Department of Labor index on which COLAs are based.   

For Social Security beneficiaries, the increased benefit payouts will start in January 2019. People receiving SSI benefits will see the increase on December 31, 2018. Read More

Claiming Social Security Early: Now or Wait?

Claiming Social Security Early: Now or Wait?

For many soon-to-retire households, the timing of when to take Social Security benefits is an important choice. David Freitag, a Social Security expert with Mass Mutual, says that if you calculate the present value of a couple’s monthly benefits, it could exceed $1 million.

People are living longer and spending more. As a result, they need to know how their benefits really work, according to Freitag.

And it’s largely due to longevity risk, as the head of MassMutual in the U.S. explains: “This is not a retirement planning conversation. This is a longevity planning conversation, and near-retirees have the power and responsibility to ensure that they protect and receive every dollar they deserve in Social Security retirement benefits when the time comes.”

Even so, a large number of people take Social Security benefits before their full retirement age. In doing so, they may begin receiving income from Social Security sooner. But there are trade-offs, which vary depending on just how early you start benefits. Read More

Social Security 101 — How Much You Know About Your Benefits Matters

Social Security 101 -- How Much You Know About Your Benefits Matters

Guess what, class. The results are in… and most of us did not pass a very important test. Nearly half of Americans age 50+ failed a basic Social Security quiz, according to a newly released nationwide consumer poll by MassMutual Life Insurance Company.

Why should this news alarm us all? Because Social Security is a major income source for many Americans in retirement. And if we don’t know how to maximize our benefits, or even know what questions to ask regarding how to get our best payout, it can hurt us. We may be leaving money on the table when we need that income the most — whether enjoying healthy income for your lifestyle or enjoying greater income certainty for monthly retirement expenses.

In some sense, it’s as if each point not scored is potentially a dollar amount of benefits we may lose, unless we start paying closer attention. It’s time to consider how much in Social Security benefits we have accrued and start exploring strategies to maximize them.

“Getting Social Security right is critically important to inform plans for other income stream needs later in life as it may be difficult, and sometimes not even possible, to hit the reset button,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual, U.S. “This is not a retirement planning conversation. This is a longevity planning conversation, and near-retirees have the power and responsibility to ensure that they protect and receive every dollar they deserve in Social Security retirement benefits when the time comes.” Read More

How Does the Earnings Test Apply to Social Security Benefits?

How Does the Earnings Test Apply to Social Security Benefits?

Choosing when to take your Social Security benefits — whether that moment is before, at, or beyond your Full Retirement Age (or Normal Retirement Age) — could be one of the most important decisions you will make for your retirement income plan.

Why is knowing your Full Retirement Age (FRA) so critical? Claiming your Social Security benefits prior to reaching your FRA results in a reduction of your benefit, a reduction that lasts for your entire life. Since Social Security is likely to be the largest “income asset” for many people, understanding what could reduce that payout, and potentially how to avoid that reduction, is paramount.

It’s not just that. If you are working and take Social Security benefits before attaining your Full Retirement Age, the Social Security Administration will also reduce your benefits payments should your earnings exceed certain limits. This is called the “Earnings Test” by the SSA and financial professionals. According to Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 53% of workers plan to work past 65, and 56% plan to work after they retire.

Given that lots of Americans have working plans for their retirement future, how could the Earnings Test affect their benefits payments? For one, it isn’t clear to many people exactly what earnings apply toward the Earnings Test — and therefore what could affect their benefits payouts. Read More

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