What’s next for Social Security claiming advice?

David Cechanowicz, JD, MSFS, CLU®, ChFC®
November 19, 2015
    

BBA.jpgAfter passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 many advisors have asked us how do the changes in the new law affect the future of advisors who offer advice on Social Security claiming strategies. We’ve been asked repeatedly if these changes represent “the end of Social Security claiming advice?”

Our answer is a resounding “no!” In fact, we look at these changes as a marketing opportunity for advisors, especially for those of you who have decided to make Social Security timing decisions a centerpiece of your financial practice.

To begin with, the new law creates three sets of rules based on a client’s birthday. One set applies to people who are 66 today or will turn 66 prior to April 30, 2016. This creates a real sense of urgency for them to make claiming decisions by that deadline. 

The second set of rules applies to individuals who were born after Jan. 1, 1950. While those individuals lose the ability to file and suspend, they still retain the ability to file a Restricted Application for spousal benefits, provided their spouse has already filed. 

Finally, the third set of rules applies to individuals born Jan. 2, 1954, or later. Those individuals will be subject to the deeming rule, which will require them to claim all benefits for which they are entitled, eliminating the ability to file only for spousal benefits while allowing a retirement benefit to accumulate Delayed Retirement Credits. 

To illustrate the effect on reviewing a Social Security timing decision, let’s look at three different case studies to see how the new changes impact couples who fall into each of the time periods created under the new law.

Case 1

  • John age 66 in November 2015 and Jane age 62 in October 2015
  • Question: Should they both elect now or implement a Switch Strategy?

Assumptions:

  • John’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) at full retirement age (FRA): $2,500 a month
  • Jane’s PIA at FRA: $1,300 a month
  • Living to age 85 and 90, 2.7% inflation and 1% real rate of return

The recommended strategy for this couple is as follows:

 

SST Software Strategy Comparison

  

  • John should file and suspend at 66 (must at least file for benefits by April 29 by Social Security rules, requesting immediate suspension), which allows Jane to collect a spousal benefit. John should restart his benefit at age 70 to get the maximum delayed credit, $3,670. 
  • Jane should file a Restricted Application for only her spousal benefit at age 66, $1,390, then switch to her own benefit at 70, $2,123 — again getting the maximum delayed credit.

 As you can see from the diagram, the difference between the recommended strategy and claiming early is significant. In fact, the present value of the increased benefits by exercising a Switch Strategy is $205,000. 

But how do those numbers change for a couple born after May 1, 1950, but before Jan. 2, 1954?

Case 2

  • John age 65 in November 2015 and Jane age 62 in October 2015
  • Should they both elect now or implement a Switch Strategy?

Assumptions:

  • John PIA at FRA: $2,500 a month
  • Jane PIA at FRA: $1,300 a month
  • Living to age 85 and 90, 2.7% inflation and 1% real rate of return

Note that the only thing that we changed in this example is John’s date of birth — all other factors remained the same. The recommended strategy for this couple is as follows: 

SST Software Strategy Comparison 
  • John file for benefits at 68 years 11 months:$3,429  a month.
  • Jane should file only a spousal benefit beginning at her age 66: $1,390 a month, then switch to her retirement benefit at age 70, $2,123 a month, receiving the maximum delayed credit.

 The difference between the recommended strategy and claiming early is still significant. In fact, the present value of the increased benefits by exercising a Switch Strategy is more than $188,000. Compared to the previous example, the present value for this couple is still 92% of the benefit that would have been available had the law not changed.

Finally, let’s examine a case for individuals born on or after Jan. 2, 1954.

Case 3

  • John age 61 in January 2016 and Jane age 59 in January 2016
  • How can they maximize?

Assumptions:

  • John PIA at FRA: $2,400 a month
  • Jane PIA at FRA: $900 a month
  • Living to age 85 and 90, 2.7% inflation and 1% real rate of return

Note that the claiming strategy for this couple focuses entirely on the timing of benefits and creates the following recommended strategy:

  • John file a standard application for benefits at age 70 years. His approximate monthly benefit would be $3,880.
  • Jane file for benefits under her earnings record at age 66 years, six months. At this time, no spousal benefit will be available because John will not have filed. Her benefit amount will be approximately $1,055.
  • At Jane’s age 68 years, spousal benefits will be added based on John's earnings record. Her approximate spousal benefit would be $371. This would be in addition to the benefit she was already receiving.

Again, the difference between the recommended strategy and claiming early is still significant. In fact, the present value of the increased benefits by exercising a Switch Strategy is $122,000.  

SST Software Strategy Comparison

We hope you understand that the opportunities for quality advice still abound. The vast majority of people who claim Social Security benefits still claim early, and they do so without the assistance of a financial advisor. 

Additionally, since Social Security income enjoys a tax-preferred status in any client’s retirement income plan, we can teach you in our online training, The School, how to find additional present value savings that may offset some or all of the reductions that clients may experience in the future. In the meantime, good advice will be even more important because the rules just got a whole lot more complicated. 

 Try the software now for free and see for yourself. 

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