I was a middle school student, rummaging through a box of papers, when I first saw the card imprinted with my name and some unfamiliar numbers.
“What’s this?” I remember asking my dad.
He explained that it was my Social Security card and that someday I would need to show it when I started working my first job. And when I was much older, I would need it when the time came to claim benefits. And that the number on the card would be some kind of identification number when it came to taxes and other financial matters in the future.
I began pondering. Social Security? Isn’t that something that Grandpa talks about? Isn’t that something only old people have to worry about? I’m only 13! I have a lot of years ahead of me before I have to think about that stuff! And work? I still have time before I have to get a job.
Why do I need to care about this now?
Fast-forward a few short years to a time I looked forward to receiving my first paycheck, only to be disappointed when I looked at the amount of the check. Why did they deduct money for something called FICA? Why am I giving up some of my paycheck now when I don’t have to worry about retirement for another 40 or 50 years?
Now I log on to the Social Security website regularly to make sure my account information is up to date and to track how much I have accumulated for future benefits. When the day comes that I finally retire, Social Security will play a big role in that retirement. I want to tell younger me that there was a good reason why those early paychecks were smaller than I had anticipated.
Millions of Americans depend on Social Security to fund their retirement, to pay survivors’ benefits or to provide disability payments. But claiming those benefits isn’t as straightforward as many people think. Should you claim as soon as you are eligible, or should you wait as long as possible?
And what about married couples? A single person only has to consider nine different scenarios when claiming retirement benefits. For married couples, the available options for filing strategies grow to 81.
There are no do-overs if you pick the wrong claiming strategy, and the consequences can mean a loss of tens of thousands of dollars over the retirement years.
As in many other financial decisions, the difference between success and failure depends on whether someone gets help from a professional. In this issue of InsuranceNewsNet, we look at experts who have devoted their practice to helping clients make the most of their Social Security benefits.
Financial professionals who want to provide Social Security advice but aren’t sure whether they are knowledgeable enough to do so have champions in Marc Kiner and Jim Blair. Marc saw the need for giving Social Security advice, but he knew he needed more information than what he was able to find on his own. He met Jim, who had retired after many years with the Social Security Administration, and a business partnership was born. Marc and Jim share how they became the dynamic duo of Social Security advising in an interview with Publisher Paul Feldman.
What Marc and Jim — and the other professionals we interviewed this month — most frequently said about Social Security is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all program, and each client’s claiming decision depends on their individual situation.
A lot of factors go into the Social Security decision. For many people like me, the day to “think about that stuff” is coming sooner than they realize. They need help from someone who can put their Social Security puzzle in the way that gives them the best picture in retirement.