Planning your retirement

Planning your retirement

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By Nancy Burner

Retirement can be an exciting new chapter in someone’s life, but it can also be stressful. The change of lifestyle and income source can lead to anxiety for many individuals reaching retirement. There may be a fear that there is not sufficient income to meet monthly needs or sufficient resources to last the remainder of his or her life.

The reality is that people are living longer and require stable income to meet their daily expenses. A person can maximize benefits and income while preserving assets for the next generation provided that the proper planning has been put into place.

One key strategy in planning for retirement income is maximizing your benefit under the Social Security system. Social Security income will play a major role in monthly income for many retired seniors and should not be overlooked or ignored. Knowing the appropriate time to start taking the benefit will impact the amount of income a person will receive.  “Full retirement age” will depend on when the individual was born.

For those born in 1954 or before, the full retirement age is 66 years old. For those born after 1954 but prior to 1960, the full retirement age gradually rises a few months at a time. For example, someone born in 1957 has a full retirement age of 66 years and 6 months. Anyone born in 1960 and later has a full retirement age of 67 years old.

Taking Social Security prior to the “full retirement age” can result in reduction penalties that could potentially cost the individual almost half of what might have been earned if the individual had waited. Once a person reaches “full retirement age,” it may be advantageous to wait a few years longer until 70 years old to begin collecting Social Security. Unfortunately, the only way to determine if waiting until age 70 is beneficial would be to know how long you are going to live.

Social Security Administration determines your benefit based on the average life expectancy. If the person outlives the average life expectancy, then it was a better choice to wait until 70 to begin the benefit. Nevertheless, no one knows how long they will live, but the reality is that people are living longer and it is essential to make sure you have sufficient income to support your daily needs regardless of how long you live.

It may be much easier said than done to wait to take Social Security. In a perfect world, everyone could wait until the perfect age to start taking Social Security in order to maximize their benefit. The reality may be that income is needed sooner than the ideal age. In this circumstance, there are several tactics that can be used in order to get income, but preserve your Social Security income and allow it to grow until you reach 70 years old.

It is essential to understand that a person may be entitled to Social Security benefits based on a spouse, ex-spouse, deceased spouse or deceased ex-spouse’s earning record. Once a person reaches “full retirement age,” but has not reached age 70, it may be advantageous to use a restricted application and apply only to claim a spousal (or ex-spousal) benefit and wait until 70 to collect your own benefit. This would enable you to start getting Social Security income, but preserve your benefit to allow for the possibility of a higher income. It is important to consult a professional in your area regarding different tactics that can be used to maximize your retirement benefits.

Retirement should be the time in your life where you can relax. The stress of not having enough income to meet necessary daily expenses can be avoided with having the proper plan in place to meet your income needs and give you peace of mind.

Nancy Burner, Esq. has practiced elder law and estate planning for 25 years. The opinions of columnists are their own. They do not speak for the paper.