Social Security Planning One decision can impact your retirement by tens of thousands of dollars. For most people, Social Security is the only income stream that: Is adjusted annually to keep up with inflation Is tax-advantaged—at worst, it’s only 85% taxable as ordinary income Will continue to pay you for as long as you live Is backed by a government promise Choosing the right Social Security election may be the most important decision of your retirement. How much you receive from Social Security depends on three primary factors: Your earnings record When you elect How long you expect to live Since you can’t go back and change your earnings record, and you have minimal control over how long you live, calculating an expected lifetime benefit largely hinges on when and how you elect benefits. In theory, if you elect early, you will get a smaller benefit for a longer period of time. If you elect later, you will get a larger benefit for a shorter period of time. Single people can do a simple “break-even” analysis to determine whether to take early or wait. But, for married couples, the decision is much more complex. For married couples, a simple breakeven analysis will usually give the wrong answer, costing you benefit dollars. Why? Because Social Security offers three distinct benefits for married people: Retired Worker Benefit – Based on your own earnings record Spousal Benefit – Provides your spouse with a benefit once you claim your own benefit Survivor Benefit – Provides your spouse with a benefit after your death Virtually all of the simple break-even calculators in use today ignore the Spousal and Survivor benefits. Complex planning software includes Spousal and Survivor benefits but only for one combination of election ages. In short, neither tool offers a thorough analysis. At Engler, Garrow & Roth, Ltd. we utilize advanced analysis tools so that we can help you select the most appropriate Social Security claiming strategy for your unique circumstances. To learn more about why you should maximize your social security benefits and what it could mean for your financial situation, click to go to our: What’s at Stake for You? Calculator.