Tag: Social Security

Making Smart Decisions About Social Security

Social Security CardDeciding when to start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits is an important choice that will impact the income you receive for the rest of your life.  The decision can also affect the income and lifestyle of a surviving spouse.
When it comes to Social Security, you may be wondering whether you should: 

              • Start collecting before Full Retirement Age but receive a reduced benefit?
              • Wait until Full Retirement Age to start collecting your full benefit?
              • Delay past Full Retirement Age to maximize your benefit?

To help make an informed decision, you’ll want to consider a number of key factors, including your marital status, your health, your plans for retirement and your retirement income sources, just to name few.

Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is the age at which you qualify for 100% of your Social Security benefits (known as your Primary Insurance Amount).  Your FRA is based on your year of birth.  See this chart from the Social Security website to find yours:


When you’re ready to start collecting benefits
, you should apply for Social Security no more than four months before the date you want your benefits to start.

If you start collecting Social Security benefits and then change your mind about your choice of start date, you may be able to withdraw your claim and re-apply at a future date, provided you do so within 12 months of your original application for benefits.  All benefits (including spousal and dependent benefits) must be repaid. You may only withdraw your application for benefits once in your lifetime.

You generally have three main options when it comes to choosing when to start collecting your benefits – a process often referred to as your Social Security “filing strategy.”

  • Start collecting early (before Full Retirement Age)
  • Start collecting at Full Retirement Age
  • Start collecting after Full Retirement Age

Each filing strategy has advantages and disadvantages.

Order our white paper on Social Security claiming strategies by calling our office (757-638-5490) or emailing us at info@korvingco.com.

Will Retiring Force Cutbacks in Your Lifestyle?

For most people, retiring means the end of a paycheck.  When you retire, how will your lifestyle be affected?  If you don’t know the answer to that, don’t you want to find out before it’s too late?  There are so many things to take into consideration, including:

Retirement age – Modern retirees face lots of choices that their parents did not have.  There is no longer a mandatory retirement age, so the question of “when should I retire?” gets more complicated.

Social Security – The age at which you apply for Social Security benefits has a big effect on your retirement income.  Apply early and you reduce your monthly benefits by 25% – 30% depending on your age.  Wait until you’re 70 and you increase your monthly benefit by up to 32% (8% per year) depending on your age.  If you are married the decisions get even more complicated.

Pension – If you are entitled to a pension, the amount you receive usually depends on your length of service.  The formula used to calculate pension benefits can get quite complicated.  Those who work for employers with questionable or shaky financials may want to consider whether they will get the benefits they are promised.  If you are married, you will need to decide how much of your pension will go to your spouse if you die first.

Second career – An increasing number of people are going back to work after initially retiring.  Quite a few people don’t really want to stop working, but instead want to do something different or less stressful in their retirement.  Others use their skills to become consultants, or turn a hobby into a business.  A “second career” makes a big difference in your retirement lifestyle and how much income you will have in retirement.

Investment accounts – These are the funds you have saved for retirement in: IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, and individual accounts.  These funds are under your control.  Most retirees use them to supplement their Social Security and pension income.  They play a very large role in determining how well people live in retirement.

To find out whether you will be forced to cut back after you retire, you need a plan that allows you to take all these factors into consideration.  A plan allows you to gauge your progress and make corrections before it’s too late.

If you have questions, or if you would like to create a retirement plan, contact us.

The Advantages of Waiting to Retire at 70

There are a number of reasons why people should think about delaying retirement past the traditional age of 65. The retirement age of 65 was set in 1935 when Congress enacted Social Security and lifespans were much shorter.

Several things have happened in the decades following 1935 that now makes it reasonable for people to delay retiring until age 70. First, the structure of work has changed. Instead of working on a farm or doing heavy lifting in factories, the typical American worker is physically capable of working longer than 65. For the vast majority of workers, there’s more sitting or standing than manual labor. The second factor is the longer lives that U.S. citizens now enjoy. While not universally true, many people do enjoy their jobs do and prefer to go to work instead of sitting around the house or playing endless rounds of golf.

From the financial perspective, it makes even more sense to work past age 65. Monthly Social Security checks increase by 76% just by waiting until age 70 to retire instead of collecting at age 62 (the first year of eligibility) –76%!

As people get older and advance in their careers, their salary often increases with their tenure, meaning that if they leave at age 65, they could be leaving during their peak earning years. By continuing to work they can continue to add to their retirement savings. This is important for people with pensions whose retirement benefits continue to grow the longer they work. And it becomes even more important for people whose retirement is self-funded by their 401(k) plan, IRA or other investment portfolios.

Finally, from a purely actuarial perspective, the longer we work and bring in income, the less time we will spend fully retired and withdrawing from our retirement savings. The greatest fear that people have is running out of money during retirement. Delaying retirement until age 70 or beyond reduces that possibility.

A Client Asks: What’s the Benefit of Inflation?

One of our retired clients sent us the following question recently:

“I can’t understand the FED condoning and promoting any inflation rate. To me inflation means that the value of money is simply depreciating at the inflation rate. Further, any investment paying less than the inflation rate is losing money. A quick review of CD rates and government bonds show it is a rare one that even approaches the promoted 2.25% rate. It seems to me to be a de-facto admission of wanting to screw conservative investors and forcing them into riskier investments… Where is there any benefit to the financial well-being of the ordinary citizens?”

I suspect that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. It’s a good question. Who wants ever rising prices?

Here’s how I addressed his question:

Let me answer your inflation question first. My personal opinion is that 0% inflation is ideal, and I suspect that you agree. However, lots of people see “modest” rates of inflation (say 2%) as healthy because it indicates a growing economy. Here’s a quote from an article you may want to read:

Rising prices reflect a growing economy. Prices typically rise for one of two reasons: either there’s a sudden shortage of supply, or demand goes up. Supply shocks—like a disruption in the flow of oil from Libya—are usually bad news, because prices rise with no corresponding increase in economic activity. That’s like a tax that takes money out of people’s pockets without providing any benefit in return. But when prices rise because demand increases, that means consumers are spending more money, economic activity is picking up, and hiring is likely to increase.

A case can be made that in a dynamic economy you can never get perfect stability (e.g. perfectly stable prices), so it’s better for there to be more demand than supply – driving prices up – rather than less demand than supply – causing prices to fall (deflation). Of course we have to realize that “prices” here includes the price of labor as well as goods and services. That’s why people can command raises in a growing economy – because employers have to bid up for a limited supply of labor. On the other hand, wages grow stagnant or even decline when there are more workers available than jobs available.

But for retirees on a fixed income, inflation is mostly a negative. Your pension is fixed. Social Security is indexed for inflation, but those “official” inflation numbers don’t take food and fuel costs into consideration, and those tend to go up faster than the “official” rate. The stock market also benefits from modest inflation.

Which gets us to the Federal Reserve, which has kept interest rates near zero for quite a while. It’s doing this to encourage business borrowing, which in turn is supposed to lead to economic expansion.  However, the actual effect has been muted because other government policies have been detrimental to private enterprise. In effect you have seen the results of two government policies in conflict. It’s really a testimony to the resilience of private industry that the economy is doing as well as it is.

The effect on conservative investors (the ones who prefer CDs or government bonds to stocks) has been negative. It’s absolutely true that after inflation and taxes the saver is losing purchasing power in today’s low interest rate environment. The FED is not doing this to intentionally hurt conservative investors, but that’s been part of the collateral damage. The artificially low rates will not last forever and the Fed has indicated they want to raise rates. They key question is when, and by how much?

How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 3

Most couples think they communicate well, but when it comes to their finances research indicates otherwise. Our previous essays on the subject have shown just how poor it typically is.

On the issue of retirement, nearly half (48{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) of the couples surveyed had no idea how much they needed to save in order to maintain their current lifestyle once they retire.

Nearly half (47{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) disagreed on the amount they need. Even more startling, those who were nearest to retirement – when changing course is the most difficult – disagreed the most!

Over half (52{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) of the respondents had “no idea” what they would receive in monthly retirement income. Asked about Social Security, 60{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} either did not know, or were not sure, what they would receive. That includes the about-to-retire Baby Boomers.

Roughly one-third of couples disagreed on their retirement lifestyle. Half could not even agree on when they would retire.

Our next essay on this series will have a look at what financial issues couples worry about financially.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, contact Korving & Company.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 2

Most couples think they communicate well, but research indicates otherwise when it comes to finances. Of course, talking about finances can be a minefield. If one partner is frugal and the other spends freely, tensions can be high. Disagreements about money are one of the leading causes of divorce.

More than four out of ten couples did not know how much their partner makes. Many were off by over $25,000! This can have serious effects. If you don’t know how much income you make as a couple, how do you know how much you can reasonably spend?

Unless couples lead totally separate financial lives, not knowing how much they are earning together can lead to a lack of savings or even debt. This issue could be behind the alarmingly high amount of debt that people carry, often at exorbitant rates.

More than one-third of couples disagree on the amount of investable money they have. This usually happens when there is a division of labor between couples, where one partner is in charge of the investments.

However, our experience indicates that couples also disagree on the kinds of investments that are appropriate. In general, men tend to prefer riskier investments that women. This can lead to a good deal of stress and disagreement.

Our next essay will take a look at couples in retirement.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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How well do couples communicate on money? – Part 1

A recent research report by Fidelity Investments studied how well couples communicated. The majority (72{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93}) said they communicated very well. However, the study found that couples don’t communicate very well at all on finances, and many disagree on investing. The study included a wide range of ages. The couples were either married or in committed relationships. They ranged in age from 25 to retired.

Here is what the study showed:

  • 43{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} didn’t know how much their partner earns. 10{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} were off by over $25,000.
  • 36{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} don’t know how much they had in investable assets.
  • Nearly half had no idea how much they should to save for retirement.
  • 60{030251e622a83165372097b752b1e1477acc3e16319689a4bdeb1497eb0fac93} didn’t have any idea how much Social Security would provide for their retirement.

This proves to us that financial planning is very important; especially for achieving peace of mind and helping couples get on the same page about their finances.

We will be exploring this issue in upcoming essays.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, contact Korving & Company.

Korving & Company, the 2015 Suffolk Small Business of the Year is a family owned investment management and financial planning firm. We deliver a very personal level of service to guide, empower and assure our clients that their money is carefully managed to meet their long-term life goals.

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