Know Your Social Security Options

By: Thad Ismart, CFP ® | Financial Planner

As your retirement approaches, it is important to understand how Social Security factors into your retirement income. Having a clear picture of all of your Social Security options can help you create a plan to maximize your benefits.

Imagine you are about to start a new job, and the time comes to talk to your boss about your income. He tells you that there are many different ways that you can be paid, and you can start receiving your income at hundreds of different times.  In addition, he tells you that there are payroll employees who can assist you with basic questions you may have, but determining how and when you get paid is ultimately up to you.

For those who have dealt with the Social Security Administration (SSA),  this is all too familiar. The SSA is dedicated to providing a service, not providing financial advice. Many times applicants know little about their options, the complexity of the program, and the many ways they can collect benefits. Often, some SSA employees’ lack of service and knowledge leaves the applicant without clear  answers.  Having a clear picture of all of your Social Security options can help you create a plan to maximize your benefits.

SSA employees do not know about your financial situation, your health, the amount of life insurance you have, or if you plan to work in retirement; and, to be fair, it is not their job to know. It is up to you to research and learn about, or solicit help to learn about, your Social Security benefit options. If, for example, you are adamant about collecting benefits early (age 62), locking in a lower benefit for you, and possibly your spouse, the SSA is not going to counsel you or help you explore other options.

When you are ready to begin exploring all of your Social Security options, you should visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov. You will find a wealth of information, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and online calculators. In addition, if you have not already done so, you should contact a financial planner to help you take a look at your entire financial picture to see how Social Security fits in to your retirement income. If you need help navigating Social Security benefit options, contact your BWFA advisor or Thad Ismart, CFP® at 410-461-3900or tismart@bwfa.com.