Financial advisors who can help clients make one of the most important financial decisions of their lives -- when and how to take Social Security -- will cement relations with the client, says William Meyer, founder and CEO of Social Security Solutions Inc.
The recent changes in Social Security make selecting the right strategy even more complicated for the advisor and the client, in part because there is no longer a clear, winning strategy, Meyer said during a webinar Wednesday.
“You need to present your client with several strategies and work with him or her to maximize the benefits,” says Meyer. In many cases proper selection can add $100,000 or more to the lifetime benefits a client receives or can make a portfolio last up to 10 years longer before the client runs out of money, he says.
Social Security Solutions is a software and education firm for advisors that focuses on maximizing Social Security benefits and portfolio withdrawal strategies.
When applying for benefits, a client should be armed with a specific strategy that he or she wants Social Security to use, as well as all the documentation that will be needed, such as marriage and divorce decrees. The client also should have the Social Security policies with them.
“Social Security agents do the best they can, but they are overwhelmed and not always well trained. If they give a client bad information, you should tell the client to ask for a supervisor or a technical analyst,” he says.
If a client has made a bad decision on when to take benefits, such as taking benefits too early, or if the client’s circumstances have changed, the advisor often can help fix the problem.
“One of the mistakes that advisors make now is thinking the option of suspending benefits has gone away because a strategy known as ‘file and suspend’ was eliminated in April,” Meyer says. A person who has taken benefits too early still can suspend benefits after full retirement age and let them grow until they are resumed.
The changes enacted in December and April pushed the "break even" point out several years under some filing strategies, so the standard procedure of waiting until the client is 70 to take benefits may no longer be the best option. The break-even point is an age when the client ends up with more total money by delaying taking benefits than if he had started at 62 or 66 years of age.
Further complicating the claiming strategy is the fact that the retirement age is being raised gradually from 66 to 67 years of age, depending on when the person was born.