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Social Security benefits: When to apply and how to maximize

By Nicole Hennessy

Westshore

Social Security is a convoluted system that may not be fully understood by anyone, even the lawmakers who amend and adapt it into even less comprehensible forms. Still, most people must figure out how to maximize their benefits at some point.

This is not as simple as retiring and filling out a form. There are other accounts to consider – 401(k)s or pensions. There are also assets, which can be moved around, and the benefits of spouses, ex-spouses and deceased spouses to consider.

At the Westlake Porter Public Library on March 7, Raymond B. Brown, a Westlake financial planner, explained to a roomful of interested community members the intricacies of filing for Social Security.

Judging by the tone of his voice and the speed and accuracy with which he relayed the information, he’d repeated these things countless times.

Established in 1935, Social Security was originally intended to combat the effects of the Great Depression on the elderly. And in recent years, in light of the recession, rumors that it may not exist at all in 50 years makes those who are paying into it now question its legitimacy. More accurately, as the laws are written now, in 2033 Social Security will only be able to pay out 75 percent of what it owes.

For the baby boomers who’ve paid into it their whole working lives, there’s no question they will receive the benefits owed to them. It’s just a matter of how to maximize those benefits.

Brown continued through his presentation, prompting gasps every time he casually mentioned death. He explained that those who wait until they’re 70 will receive the most benefits, and advised attendees to consider their family history and current health to determine how long to wait.

Each year Social Security is readjusted for inflation. On a chart, he pointed out that percentage is 1.70 for 2013, compared with 3.60 percent for 2012, and that each worker pays 6.2 percent on up to $113,700 of income into Social Security. Those who are self-employed pay 15.3 percent.

Brown pointed out other facts:

  • Social Security benefits are calculated based on a person’s highest-earning years
  • Electronic payments are now required. No more checks are being mailed.
  • All benefits can be calculated online.
  • Those divorced who were married for at least 10 years can receive ex-spouses’ benefits without notifying the ex-spouse in question.

For those who have questions on how to maximize benefits, Brown suggested they contact a financial planner. The Social Security office can help with which forms need to be filed, but employees cannot give advice on how to get the most money.

SIDE BAR: More information can be found at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

 

 

 

 

 

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