Business

Three Social Security traps to avoid

By Mark Singer

On January 31, 1940, the first monthly Social Security check was issued to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vt. She received $22.54, according to the Social Security Administration. She was 65 years old at the time. She died at 100 years of age.

Ida May Fuller worked for three years under the Social Security program, paid a total of $24.75 in payroll taxes, and collected $22,888.92 in Social Security benefits. 

Today, nearly 70 million people receive some form of assistance from Social Security. You and I will never receive the return on our contributions that Ms. Fuller received, but Social Security can and does play a role in supplementing savings accumulated over a lifetime. 

Recognizing that Social Security supplements other sources of income, we can take proactive measures that maximize benefits while avoiding the pitfalls that poor choices can create.

With that in mind, let’s review potential financial Social Security potholes that can cost you money.

Collecting benefits too soon 

You may begin receiving your retirement benefit at age 62 … at a reduced rate. You probably know this, but let’s talk turkey.
If you were born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. At age 62, your monthly benefit amount is reduced by about 30 percent of what you would receive if you waited until you are 67. The reduction for starting benefits at 63 is about 25 percent; 64 is about 20 percent; 65 is about 13.3 percent; and 66 is about 6.7 percent.
In casual conversation, it’s common for folks to ask us, “When is the right time for me to begin receiving benefits?” We usually respond with a less-than-definitive, “It depends,” because many variables, both objective and subjective, factor in.
If you have questions, let’s talk. We believe it’s important to tailor our thoughts and recommendations to your specific circumstances.

You collect prior to your full retirement age while still working

If you are under full retirement age for the entire year, Social Security deducts $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit– SSA. For 2019, that limit is $17,640. Ouch!
In the year you reach full retirement, Social Security deducts $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a higher limit. The 2019 income limit is $46,920. Only earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age are counted.
In many cases, the price of collecting Social Security while working and under full retirement age can be costly.

You are unaware that your Social Security may be taxed

IRA and 401k contributions may be deducted from income. However, Social Security taxes paid by the employee are not deductible. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into tax-free Social Security income.
If you file a federal tax return as an “individual”  and your combined income (excluding Social Security) runs between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits. Earn more than $34,000, and up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.
If you file a joint return, the threshold rises to $32,000 and $44,000, respectively.

Next month I’ll tell you about three more Social Security traps you should avoid. 

Mark Singer, CFPⓇ, lives in Swampscott and has been in the financial industry for more than three decades. If you have any questions contact him at 781.599.2660 or mark@55retire.com

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