Social Security MythsSubmitted by MIRUS Financial Partners on March 22nd, 2021
Not all financial advice penned by Internet "experts" is accurate. The same goes for information on Social Security. You are probably hearing a lot of mixed-up, misinterpreted, and misunderstood information about your Social Security, which may be your biggest retirement asset. Here are some of the most common Social Security myths.
Myth: Social Security is Tax-Free
When you log on to your account at Social Security (SSA.gov/myaccount) for an accounting of what to expect in monthly Social Security retirement benefits, you may see a decent-looking number. OK, now cut that back a bit. Many believe Social Security income is tax-free. Fact is, for many—especially for those who have the resources to use a financial professional—that benefit is taxable. Remember to think about that as you mentally prepare a retirement budget. Uncle Sam gets a taste. Even in retirement.
Myth: Social Security Won't be There for Me
There's alot of chatter about disappearing Social Security benefits. But the numbers tell a different story. Social Security's accounting shows the agency will continue collecting more than it pays out for the next few years. Then, it will still have its trust fund—a kind of savings account—to draw from until 2034. After that, it will be taking in less than it pays out but will still be able to fund 79% of benefits. A lot can happen between now and 2034.
Myth: There's One "Best Age" to File for Social Security
You hear a lot about "maximizing" Social Security benefits. But the fact is, until someone invents a test to determine exactly when you will die, there's no way to identify "maximum" benefits. That's because Social Security calculates benefits to actuarially provide essentially the same lifetime benefit no matter when you retire. There is no "best age." Claim early, at 62, and receive less each month, but for many more months. Claim later, at 70, and get a higher benefit, but for less time. There is no wrong time to file. There is only a right time for each individual, based on individual circumstances. That's where financial professionals come in, helping you pick the time that's right for each person.
Myth: Everyone is Entitled to Social Security
Not true. Social Security is "pay for play."Unless you are disabled, Americans need to have 40 credits to qualify for benefits. Those credits are earned gradually; workers earned one in 2016 for every $1,260 in earned wages, up to four a year. So in most cases, you need to earn wages in the workforce for at least ten years to access Social Security. And even then, some won't qualify if they contributed to a government or railroad retirement program instead of Social Security.
Myth: Medicare is Free
Just like Social Security, Medicare requires workers to have a record of earned wages. And yes, Part A covers hospital costs for qualified recipients over 65 for free. But that's only part of the deal. For those who want someone to actually care for them while they lie in that free hospital bed, they'll need Medicare Part B, which costs about $148 a month for most people. So add that cost into the retirement budget. And don't forget copays and deductibles. Want a plan that fills in the gaps, something known as a Medigap plan (or Medicare Supplement Insurance)? That'll cost even more.
Myth: When a Spouse Passes, the Survivor Gets That Benefit Too
Well...sort of. If a higher-earning spouse dies, his or her survivor can claim that higher retirement benefit. But that survivor gives up his or her old benefit. So the survivor might get a "raise," but total household income will decrease because Social Security doesn't continue sending two checks. Unfortunately, property taxes, cable TV, landscaper, and HOA costs don't decrease because one less person lives in the household. That's why it's important to plan for another source of guaranteed lifetime retirement income that will never decrease, no matter how long both spouses live.
Myth: When a Spouse Passes, Social Security Provides for Final Expenses
Not really. A surviving spouse is entitled to a $255 payment, an amount that hasn't changed since 1954. That's it. It will not cover final expenses.
Myth: You Must Visit a Social Security Office and Wait in a Long Line for Help
Social Security is getting better at providing services online. From checking anticipated benefits at SSA.gov/myaccount to filing for benefits, even requesting a replacement Social Security card (in some states), the feds are getting better. For those tasks that do require an in-person meeting, the wait times aren't that bad. A recent visit to the Lancaster, PA, office presented a daunting-looking packed room, but once the client scheduled an appointment, the actual wait time was less than ten minutes for a productive meeting.
Myth: The Government is Good at Explaining the Ins and Outs of Social Security
Like many government benefits, it can be difficult to understand the pros and cons of claiming Social Security. There are some simple things people can do to minimize taxes and maximize payouts, but they’re not clearly outlined on the Social Security site. Working with a financial advisor may help some people navigate the ins and outs of social security more effectively.
If you want to talk about your Social Security and retirement planning, contact Mark Vergenes at Mirus Financial Partners, and let’s get started today.