Your report can help you decide when and how to file to get the potentially increase your income from Social Security. With more than 567 ways to file for Social Security, it’s important to research the various options before making a decision that becomes permanent after 12 months. Our reporting software analyzes hundreds of possible claiming strategies and shows you in a straightforward chart the process to take to give you and your family the optimal claiming strategies. The report includes the income you will receive at various claiming ages, tax implications, spousal benefits, survivor benefits, and dozens of other charts.
Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 7.29.55 PMYou can claim Social Security at any age between 62 and 70, but the amount you will receive at each age varies. The earlier you claim, the lower your benefit will be. But as you wait, your benefit amount increases. Here’s an example of the difference in payments at each age for someone whose benefit is $1,000 at the Full Retirement Age of 66. (source) (hypothetical illustration)
Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 7.28.51 PMThe estimated income amount that appears on your Social Security statement represents the amount you will get at Full Retirement Age (FRA). FRA varies based on birth year and ranges from 65 to 67. This chart shows when your full retirement age is. (source)
Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest earning years. These earnings are applied to a bend point formula to adjust for inflation and reflect near-current wage levels. The resulting number is called your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME) (source 1, source 2) Finally your AIME is applied to the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) which is the amount that is available for income at Full Retirement Age. The complexity of the benefit calculation process underscores the importance of doing your due diligence, and working with a professional who can guide you through the process to potentially increase your income in retirement.
There are 2,728 rules in the Social Security handbook resulting in 567 separate ways to claim benefits for a married couple1. (source) Navigating the complexities of the claiming process on your own makes getting the optimal benefit difficult. Our report analyzes hundreds of possible age and strategy combinations and shows you the optimal time and way to file to potentially get more retirement income.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 9.19.01 PMThe Social Security Administration has created a handbook called the Program Operation Manual System (POMS) that clearly defines what the administration’s employees can and cannot do for claimants. The section of the POMS manual pertaining to taking claims (GN 00203.004 – A – 1 – D) states the following: “Provide enough information so that claimants can make informed decisions, but do not give advice.” (source) Essentially Social Security Administration representatives can tell you the amount of benefits you are due to receive at various election ages, but they are unable to give you detailed claiming advice on optimizing your Social Security benefits.

The Social Security Administration does not have any standardized training for financial professionals, so there is no certification for official Social Security benefit counselors. Because of this lack of training, the majority of financial professions admittedly do not fully understand Social Security, and cannot give Social Security maximization advice. A study done by Financial Literacy Center in cooperation with Dartmouth College and the Wharton School found that just 22% of financial professionals consider themselves to be “very knowledgeable” about how the Social Security system works. (source)
Income for spouses is perhaps the most complex portion of the Social Security system. To simplify the process, spouses can either claim benefits based on their own earning history or receive half of their spouses benefit if that amount is greater. The same penalties for taking benefits early also apply to spouses wishing to take income before FRA. (source)
In the past there were options for those who elected to take Social Security early that allowed them to repay their benefits and re-apply at a future time. Today this process is less flexible. You may only withdraw your application within 12 months of when you initially claimed, repay benefits and claim again in the future. Once you are beyond this 12 month window your benefits are locked in – no do-overs allowed. (source)