Category Archives: Social Security

How Much Will I Get From Social Security?

SSA-image-3My Comments: Next month I start a series of workshops about Social Security. I’m somewhat fearful since this past weekend, I had questions from a couple of folks and while I thought I knew the answer, I wasn’t sure. One solution is to have you become a free member of an organization called the American Financial Education Alliance, or AFEA. Click on the name or image here, and you will find dozens of free calculators, including Social Security. If you’re in the Gainesville, Florida area, you’ll find I’m a Chapter President. The game plan is for me to help anyone better understand their financial circumstances.

By Dan Caplinger, Published May 22, 2016 on fool.com

Most Americans expect to get at least some income from Social Security when they retire. Figuring out exactly how much you’ll get from it isn’t as simple as you’d hope, because the calculation of your benefit amount takes into account a career’s worth of earnings history and other decisions that you make regarding your retirement. Nevertheless, you can estimate how much you’ll get from Social Security either by figuring out average earnings by hand or by using a selection of available Social Security calculators for the task.

Doing a manual calculation of your expected Social Security benefits isn’t simple. You have to start by looking at your entire career earnings history. You have to know the maximum wage base limits on which Social Security payroll taxes were charged for each of those years, and you’ll have to apply adjustments to index your earnings for inflation. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to take the 35 individual years that have the highest inflation-adjusted earnings, find the average, and then divide by 12 to get average indexed monthly earnings.

From there, you’ll use a formula to determine your primary insurance amount. The formula changes every year, but for those who turn 62 in 2016, take 90% of the first $856, 32% of the amount between $856 and $5,157, and 15% of any excess over $5,157. Add that up, and you’ll have your monthly check amount if you take retirement benefits at full retirement age. For instance, if you earned an inflation adjusted average of $2,500 per month throughout a 35-year career, then your primary insurance amount would be 90% of $856, plus 32% of $1,644, for a total of $1,296 per month.

Finally, that amount can vary depending on when you take benefits. Claiming at age 62 can cut your benefit by 25%, while claiming at 70 can boost it by 32%. In the example above, that means you’d get $972 at age 62, or $1,711 at age 70.

Fortunately, you don’t have to use do your own calculations. Several calculators exist to help you figure it out for you, with varying degrees of complexity.

This simple calculator simply has you enter average annual income, current age, and the expected age at which you anticipate taking benefits. It also assumes that inflation will boost Social Security payments by a fixed percentage each year between now and when you claim your benefits. The results tell you how much you’ll get and what percentage of your current income will be replaced by Social Security.

In addition, the Social Security Administration offers its own calculators to help you. The Social Security Quick Calculator is similar to the simple calculator above, taking current income, extrapolating back, and estimating future earnings. It makes the most assumptions, and so its results won’t be very precise if those assumptions prove incorrect. The SSA’s Online Calculator allows you to enter more of your own personal data, including earnings for each past year. This will provide a more accurate estimate based on actual work history, but it still assumes future work history. The Detailed Calculator requires separate installation on your computer, but it gives the most complete picture of all benefits available.

The SSA even offers calculators that tap directly into your work history. The Retirement Estimator uses the SSA’s own records of how much you earned to fill in blanks that other calculators make you do yourself.

Finally, Social Security provides you with a statement that will go through estimates of benefits for you, your spouse, and your children under certain circumstances. Between retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, your Social Security statement has a wealth of information to help you figure out how much you and your family will get from the program.

Estimating your Social Security benefits isn’t the easiest thing in the world. With these tools, however, you can come up with solid estimates of your future benefits. Taking the time to use these calculators or to do your own manual calculations will give you the basic information you need in order to plan for your retirement years in a more informed way.

A Social Security Claiming Strategy to Consider

SSA-image-2My Comments: Every choice when it comes to filing for Social Security benefits comes with trade-offs. Whether one works for you to a large extent is determined by how long you live, and for most of us, that’s the elephant in the room. But if you assume you and your spouse will live to a normal life expectancy, this one might make sense for you if your circumstances fit the pattern.

by Joe Lucey on May 17, 2016 on MarketWatch

The 2015 bi-partisan budget act killed the “File and Suspend” as of April 29. But that doesn’t mean the end of smart Social Security election options that could add significant dollars to your Social Security income in retirement.

If you and your spouse were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954 — meaning you are both 62 years of age or older as of Jan. 1, 2016 — and both qualify for social security benefits this strategy could work for you.

It’s called “restricted application,” but is more accurately described as a “spousal claiming strategy”.

Here’s how it works.

When you are claiming social security benefits, you have three basic options:
• You can claim your benefits at age 62 early with a penalty (up to 25% less than your full benefits).
• You can claim your benefits at full retirement age (66 or 67 depending on when you are born) with no penalty.
• You can delay claiming your benefits up to age 70, with every year you delay adding an additional 8% to your monthly benefits.

But when you use “Restricted Application”, you get a valuable fourth option that allows you to claim spousal benefits without having to claim your Social Security benefits (yet).

Not only will you max out your social security benefit by delaying it until 70… but you’ll also get income while you wait for it to mature.
Essentially, you get paid extra to wait.

Let’s look at an example

Jack and Jill are married and just happen to be born on the exact same day. Today is their 66th birthday and they are ready to retire now that they have both reached full retirement age.

Jack is an engineer at a large company and Jill is a schoolteacher at the local high school. Jack has a Social Security benefit of $2,400/month and Jill’s is $2,000/month.

Their initial plan was to claim their full benefits as is and call it a day, but see how this strategy would boost their retirement income.

f they claim their full benefits, they would receive $4,400/month (or $57,600/year). For the remainder of their retirement, they would continue to receive $4,400/month.

But what happens if Jack uses “restricted application” to delay his benefits until 70 and claim his spousal benefit (which is 50% of Jill’s full benefit) instead? In the short term, Jack and Jill will earn less. But once Jack turns 70, he will now begin to claim his own Social Security benefit that has now increased to $3,168/month meaning the couple will now earn $5,128/month.

That means Jack and Jill will be earning an extra $9,216 every single year.

Seeing as how many retirees are living much longer than they used to, this makes a significant difference over a 30-year retirement.

The “restricted application” strategy wont produce more total income until the 12th year of retirement, but over 30 years winds up producing $172,416 of additional income.

Additionally, if we assume that Jill is going to outlive Jack, this also increases the survivor benefit for Jill meaning she will continue to $5,128/month as a widow.

Making this strategy work for you

Keep in mind that retirement planning is all about trade-offs. Not all strategies make sense for all couples, but it’s important that you explore your options. Otherwise, you might just be missing out on tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars you could be enjoying in retirement.

Like any investment strategy, a variety of other factors — pensions, annuities, investments, savings, life expectancy, and taxes to name a few — need to be considered when deciding what will work best for you.

Before making any decisions about what to do with your social security, I strongly recommend you speak a financial professional familiar with social security and retirement income planning.

It’s extremely difficult to undo your Social Security claiming strategy once you make your selection, so make sure you do this right.

10 Things You Must Know About Social Security

SSA-image-2My Comments: Next month I start a new job; teaching folks about Social Security. Actually, it’s a function of my need to keep busy and an apparent ability to share 40 years of experience as a financial planner with people who need to know about this very important financial element of their lives. This article, which appeared recently on Kiplinger Today is a great summary.

By Rachel L. Sheedy, May 12, 2016

For many Americans, Social Security benefits are the bedrock of retirement income. Maximizing that stream of income is critical to funding your retirement dreams.

The rules for claiming benefits can be complex, and recent changes to Social Security rules created a lot of confusion. But this guide will help you wade through the details. By educating yourself about Social Security, you can ensure that you claim the maximum amount to which you are entitled. Here are ten essentials you need to know.

1. Your age when you collect Social Security has a big impact on the amount of money you ultimately get from the program. The key age to know is your full retirement age. For people born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66. It gradually climbs toward 67 if your birthday falls between 1955 and 1959. For those born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. You can collect Social Security as soon as you turn 62, but taking benefits before full retirement age results in a permanent reduction — as much as 25% of your benefit if your full retirement age is 66.

Age also comes into play with kids: Minor children of Social Security beneficiaries can be eligible for a benefit. Children up to age 18, or up to age 19 if they are full-time students who haven’t graduated from high school, and disabled children older than 18 may be able to receive up to half of a parent’s Social Security benefit.

2. To be eligible for Social Security benefits, you must earn at least 40 “credits.” You can earn up to four credits a year, so it takes ten years of work to qualify for Social Security. In 2016, you must earn $1,260 to get one Social Security work credit and $5,040 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

Your benefit is based on the 35 years in which you earned the most money. If you have fewer than 35 years of earnings, each year with no earnings will be factored in at zero. You can increase your benefit by replacing those zero years, say, by working longer, even if it’s just part-time. But don’t worry — no low-earning year will replace a higher-earning year. The benefit isn’t based on 35 consecutive years of work, but the highest-earning 35 years. So if you decide to phase into retirement by going part-time, you won’t affect your benefit at all if you have 35 years of higher earnings. But if you make more money, your benefit will be adjusted upward, even if you are still working while taking your benefit.

There is a maximum benefit amount you can receive, though it depends on the age you retire. For someone at full retirement age in 2016, the maximum monthly benefit is $2,639. You can estimate your own benefit by using Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator.

3. One of the most attractive features of Social Security benefits is that every year the government adjusts the benefit for inflation. Known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, this inflation protection can help you keep up with rising living expenses during retirement. The COLA, which is automatic, is quite valuable; buying inflation protection on a private annuity can cost a pretty penny.

Because the COLA is calculated based on changes in a federal consumer price index, the size of the COLA depends largely on broad inflation levels determined by the government. For example, in 2009, beneficiaries received a generous COLA of 5.8%. But retirees learned a hard lesson in 2010 and 2011, when prices stagnated as a result of the recession. There was no COLA in either of those years. For 2012, the COLA came back at 3.6%, but dropped to less than 2% in the next few years. But bad news came again this year: Prices were flat, and thus there was no COLA for 2016. The COLA for the following year is announced in October.

4. Marriage brings couples an advantage when it comes to Social Security. Namely, one spouse can take what’s called a spousal benefit, worth up to 50% of the other spouse’s benefit. Put simply, if your benefit is worth $2,000 but your spouse’s is only worth $500, your spouse can switch to a spousal benefit worth $1,000 — bringing in $500 more in income per month.

The calculation changes, however, if benefits are claimed before full retirement age. If you claim your spousal benefit before your full retirement age, you won’t get the full 50%. If you take your own benefit early and then later switch to a spousal benefit, your spousal benefit will still be reduced.

Note: You cannot apply for a spousal benefit until your spouse has applied for his or her own benefit.

5. If your spouse dies before you, you can take a so-called survivor benefit. If you are at full retirement age, that benefit is worth 100% of what your spouse was receiving at the time of his or her death (or 100% of what your spouse would have been eligible to receive if he or she hadn’t yet taken benefits). A widow or widower can start taking a survivor benefit at age 60, but the benefit will be reduced because it’s taken before full retirement age.

If you remarry before age 60, you cannot get a survivor benefit. But if you remarry after age 60, you may be eligible to receive a survivor benefit based on your former spouse’s earnings record. Eligible children can also receive a survivor benefit, worth up to 75% of the deceased’s benefit.

6. What if you were married, but your spouse is now an ex-spouse? Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean you’ve lost the ability to get a benefit based on your former spouse’s earnings record. You can still qualify to receive a benefit based on his or her record if you were married at least ten years, you are 62 or older, and single.

Like a regular spousal benefit, you can get up to 50% of an ex-spouse’s benefit — less if you claim before full retirement age. And the beauty of it is that your ex never needs to know because you apply for the benefit directly through the Social Security Administration. Taking a benefit on your ex’s record has no effect on his or her benefit or the benefit of your ex’s new spouse. And unlike a regular spousal benefit, if your ex qualifies for benefits but has yet to apply, you can still take a benefit on the ex’s record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

Note: Ex-spouses can also take a survivor benefit if their ex has died first, and like any survivor benefit, it will be worth 100% of what the ex-spouse received. If you remarry after age 60, you will still be eligible for the survivor benefit.

7. Once you hit full retirement age, you can choose to wait to take your benefit. There’s a big bonus to delaying your claim — your benefit will grow by 8% a year up until age 70. Any cost-of-living adjustments will be included, too, so you don’t forgo those by waiting.

While a spousal benefit doesn’t include delayed retirement credits, the survivor benefit does. By waiting to take his benefit, a high-earning husband, for example, can ensure that his low-earning wife will receive a much higher benefit in the event he dies before her. That extra 32% of income could make a big difference for a widow whose household is down to one Social Security benefit.

In some cases, a spouse who is delaying his benefit but still wants to bring some Social Security income into the household can restrict his application to a spousal benefit only. To use this strategy, the spouse restricting his or her application must be at full retirement age and he or she must have been born on January 1, 1954, or earlier. So the lower-earning spouse, say the wife, applies for benefits on her own record. The husband then applies for a spousal benefit only, and he receives half of his wife’s benefit while his own benefit continues to grow. When he’s 70, he can switch to his own, higher benefit. Exes at full retirement age who were born on January 1, 1954, or earlier can use the same strategy — they can apply to restrict their application to a spousal benefit and let their own benefit grow.

8. There aren’t many times in life you can take a mulligan. But Social Security offers you the chance for a do-over. Say you claimed your benefit, but now wish you had waited to take it. Within the first 12 months of claiming benefits, you can “withdraw the application.” You will need to pay back all the benefits you received, including any spousal benefits based on your record. But you can later restart your benefit at a higher amount.

Early claimers have another opportunity for a do-over: They can choose to suspend their benefit at full retirement age. Say you took your benefit at age 62. Once you turn 66, you can suspend your benefit. You don’t have to pay back what you have received, and your benefit will earn delayed retirement credits of 8% a year. Wait to restart your benefit at age 70, and your monthly payment will get a 32% boost — which could erase much of the reduction from claiming early.

9. Most people know that you pay tax into the Social Security Trust Fund, but did you know that you may also have to pay tax on your Social Security benefits once you start receiving them? Benefits lost their tax-free status in 1984, and the income thresholds for triggering tax on benefits haven’t been increased since then.

As a result, it doesn’t take a lot of income for your benefits to be pinched by Uncle Sam. For example, a married couple with a combined income of more than $32,000 may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of their benefits. Higher earners may have to pay income tax on up to 85% of their benefits.

10. Bringing in too much money can cost you if you take Social Security benefits early while you are still working. With what is commonly known as the earnings test, you will forfeit $1 in benefits for every $2 you make over the earnings limit, which in 2016 is $15,720. Once you are past full retirement age, the earnings test disappears and you can make as much money as you want with no impact on benefits.

But the good news is that any benefits forfeited because earnings exceed the limits are not lost forever. At full retirement age, the Social Security Administration will refigure your benefits going forward to take into account benefits lost to the test. For example, if you claim benefits at 62 and over the next four years lose one full year of benefits to the earnings test, at age 66 your benefits will be recomputed — and increased — as if you had taken benefits three years early, instead of four. That basically means the lifetime reduction in benefits would be 20% rather than 25%.

Ready to retire? Don’t rush your Social Security start date

My Comments: A major determinant for when you should start taking your Social Security benefits comes down to when you plan to die. If you plan to die soon, then start the payments as early as possible; if you plan to live to be 100, and have enough money now, then delay the start of payments as long as possible.

March 31, 2016

For most Americans, Social Security is a big part of their retirement income

An estimated 91% of Americans aged 65 or older receive Social Security benefits—the average annual benefit for a retiree is about $16,000. For most of these retirees (64%), Social Security represents a significant portion of their income. Even for affluent retirees (those aged 60–79 with at least $100,000 in financial assets), Social Security accounts for 29% of total retirement income, on average. Given that Social Security provides a base level of guaranteed income for most retirees, it’s an important benefit for investors and their advisors to consider when designing a comprehensive plan for retirement income.

By delaying Social Security, retirees can stretch their savings

In the past, the decision as to the “right” time to claim Social Security has often been based on a break-even analysis of a retiree’s expected benefits versus his or her life expectancy. That approach, however, ignores two key features of Social Security, namely: Once you start receiving it, it’s paid for the rest of your life, no matter how long you live, and is adjusted upward for inflation. A big concern for most retirees is the risk of outliving their savings.

For many retirees who can afford to do so, deferring Social Security for a few years (even past their “full retirement age”—defined by Social Security according to one’s birth year—to the maximum annual benefit at age 70) greatly increases their lifetime monthly benefit. Given that at age 65, more than 50% of women can expect to live past age 88 (and 50% of men past 85), delaying Social Security can provide powerful longevity protection.

Social Security acts like an inflation-protected annuity

The act of delaying the claiming of Social Security is analogous to purchasing an inflation-protected deferred income annuity. Benefits increase by up to 8% in real terms for every year that claiming is delayed. The chart below  demonstrates the effectiveness of a deferred claiming strategy both for increasing guaranteed income and for providing longevity protection. Also, in the case of a married couple, one of whom, for instance, delays claiming until age 70 (for maximum benefit), a surviving spouse receives the larger of the two Social Security benefits—thus further demonstrating Social Security’s role in protecting lifetime income.

Thoughtful claiming strategies can help retirees make the most of their benefits

A careful review of Social Security regulations, your financial situation, and any health considerations you may have are crucial to developing a strategy to maximize income during retirement. (Note that the regulations can be complex, and you may benefit from seeking professional advice.) For individuals in poor health or with little or no other financial resources, early Social Security claiming may be appropriate, but for most retirees, the increase in guaranteed income gained by deferring Social Security makes waiting to start benefits an appropriate strategy. The accompanying chart shows the potential impact on a couple’s lifetime Social Security income of three different approaches: both spouses claiming at 62 (the earliest possible age), a hybrid strategy where one spouse claims at age 62 while the other delays until age 70, or both spouses delaying until age 70 to accumulate the maximum amount of delayed retirement credits.

Do the recent changes in Social Security rules allow you to file and suspend?

Social Security cardMy Comments: A critical date is fast approaching for those of you who have not yet signed up to receive your Social Security benefits, for one reason or another.

This writer clearly knows his stuff and if you have questions of me, I’ll do my best to answer them. None of this may apply to you but if you think it does, find out soon. You only have a few days left.

Click on the image above and it’ll take you to the article.

BY Laurence Kotlikoff  April 11, 2016

 

Can I File and Suspend My Social Security Benefits?

SSA-image-2My Comments: This is a hot topic. No one likes to leave money laying on the table. Given the chance you will live longer than expected and don’t have the financial reserves you thought you might have, taking advantage of everything possible from the Social Security system is critical for many of us.

By Dan Caplinger Published April 10, 2016

Social Security has many complex provisions, and smart retirees have used some of those provisions over the years to create useful strategies to enhance their retirement income. One of those strategies is called file and suspend, and late last year, lawmakers identified the strategy as offering a loophole that they didn’t want to leave open. As a result, the file-and-suspend strategy will disappear soon, but there’s still an opportunity for some people to take advantage of the strategy before it goes away.

How the file-and-suspend strategy works

The idea behind using the file-and-suspend strategy was relatively simple. Under the laws governing Social Security, your spouse isn’t entitled to receive any spousal benefits based on your work history until you decide to file for your own retirement benefits. This isn’t a problem as long as you want to take your benefits now. However, many people would prefer to defer taking retirement benefits until a later date, letting them earn delayed retirement credits and boost their eventual monthly payments.

The file-and-suspend strategy allowed couples to get the best of both worlds. Under the filing part of the strategy, you would file for your benefits, thereby activating spousal benefits for your spouse. However, you would then immediately suspend your retirement benefits. The old rules allowed you to keep earning delayed retirement credits during the period of suspension. The net result was that one spouse could get benefits now, and the other could wait and get larger benefit checks later.

Why the file-and-suspend strategy is going away

Late last fall, lawmakers agreed to do away with the file-and-suspend strategy, characterizing it as an unintended loophole. Once the law goes into effect, if you suspend your benefits, your spouse will no longer be able to get spousal benefits based on your work history. That means that in order to activate spousal benefits, you’ll have to file and actually receive your retirement benefits, and you won’t be able to earn delayed retirement credits once you file.

The law’s effective date was set for six months after its passage. That works out to May 1, and because that’s a Sunday, most planners are recommending that people take action by April 29.

The problem is that you’re not eligible to file and suspend until you reach full retirement age, which is currently 66. Those who won’t have turned 66 by the late-April deadline therefore won’t have any opportunity to get the benefits of the file-and-suspend strategy.

However, if you are eligible, then you’ll be able to enjoy the advantages of filing and suspending even after the effective date of the law. Grandfathering provisions will allow your spouse to receive spousal benefits even if you’ve suspended your benefits — as long as you did so before the deadline. If you decide to unsuspend your benefits after the deadline, then that’s a one-time decision, and you won’t be able to unmake it.

What you can still use file and suspend for

Even after the new law takes effect, there are still situations in which filing and suspending benefits can make sense. The most common is if you filed for early benefits and later decide that you would prefer to have largely monthly payments, you can suspend those benefits once you reach full retirement age. You can then earn delayed retirement credits that will boost your benefit when you decide to start taking it again. Given that many people regret their decision to take early Social Security, this is an option that has some value.

Still, the main reason why most people used file and suspend will no longer work once May comes. At that point, the strategy will simply be the latest in a series of things people did to enhance their retirement income.

Read This Before You Take Social Security Benefits

My Comments:Social Security card Social Security is a complicated topic. If you are not yet 70 years old, and/or have not yet committed to how you will take your Social Security benefits, you should read this.

With so many variables, the typical process for making a good decision is total confusion for most people, even financial planners. The net effect is that for many of us, there is money left on the table at the end of the day. This author reduces much of the confusion to simple concepts that are a great starting point. If you are still confused, or have more questions, call me.

By Dan Caplinger Published March 13, 2016

Many retirees rely on Social Security for most or all of their income in retirement. Before you make a decision that will have major financial implications for the rest of your life, it’s important to know everything at stake in the timing of when you take your benefits. Here are a few things to consider.

Fewer big payments vs. more small payments

Most people have what amounts to an eight-year window to claim Social Security. Earliest eligibility is at age 62, and 70 is the latest age at which Social Security provides any financial incentive to wait. The key decision with Social Security is whether to take a reduced benefit that will give you the maximum number of monthly Social Security payments, or whether to wait and take a higher monthly benefit but receive it for a shorter period of time.

You can find plenty of articles discussing the trade-offs involved with claiming at age 62 versus waiting until full retirement age (currently 66) or age 70 to claim. But a lot depends on your individual situation. For instance, single retirees who won’t have anyone else claiming on their work history can look solely at their own personal situation to make a smart decision about when to take Social Security. For those with family members who will receive spousal or survivor benefits, decisions that might make sense solely from your point of view might not be the best for your family as a whole. You can run numbers projecting which choice will result in your receiving more total money.

But only you can make a personal assessment whether the true value of that extra money is worth the trade-off of having to wait for it. The important thing is not just to make a knee-jerk decision but rather to consider all the factors involved and what they mean to you and your life.

If you’re working and claim early, Social Security could take back your benefits anyway

The worst result in many people’s eyes is to start collecting Social Security benefits only to have the government take them away. Yet that’s what happens to some people who continue to work in their early 60s and choose to take early benefits.

If you haven’t yet reached full retirement age, there’s a limit on how much you can earn before Social Security forces you to forfeit benefits. If you will not reach full retirement age this year and earn more than $15,720, then you’ll lose $1 in annual Social Security payments for every $2 above the limit you earn. For those who hit full retirement age during the year, a higher limit of $41,880 applies to earnings before the day of the year you reach full retirement age, and the forfeiture is $1 for every $3 above the limit.

This forfeiture doesn’t result in a complete loss, because the Social Security Administration treats you as if you had delayed taking Social Security for any full month of forfeited benefits. But if that’s what’s going to happen anyway, it can make more sense just to delay filing until your income will be under the threshold — or until you reach full retirement age.

You can get a do-over on your decision, but only for a limited time

Many people regret their decision on when to take Social Security after the fact. There is a way to undo your claiming decision, but you have only a limited time to do so, and there are some key requirements that pose a hardship for many.

In order to get a do-over, you have to use a strategy that’s known as withdrawing your Social Security applications. Form SSA-521 provides for this request, and it provides space for you to indicate the reason for the withdrawal and other related information. You can only file Form SSA-521 once in your lifetime, and it’s only available within the first 12 months after your initial application for Social Security benefits.

The hardest part of the withdrawal application is that if approved, you have to return any money you received from Social Security since you claimed benefits. Many retirees aren’t in a position to pay back up to a year’s worth of Social Security payments, and that can make the strategy impractical for them.

The decision of when to take Social Security is a key one. Being informed is the first step toward making sure you do the best thing for your situation.