What do these numbers represent: $3.4 trillion or $111,000 per household? Those numbers represent how much money retirees have left and are leaving on the table by making the wrong Social Security Retirement Benefit elections!
Even if the correct Social Security filing decisions were made by your clients/prospects, Social Security was not designed to replace much of their “pre-retirement income.” As a matter of fact, in our Social Security statements it clearly states that:
“Social Security benefits are not intended to be your only source of income when you retire. On average, Social Security will replace about 40 percent of your annual pre-retirement earnings. You will need other savings, investments, pensions, or retirement accounts to make sure you have enough money to live comfortably when you retire.”
To me, those few statements straight from the U.S. Government equals some of the best marketing a financial professional could utilize! Make sure you are helping your clients and prospects see these statements by going to SSA.GOV. Here is another one below that I like that is also in the Social Security statement:
“Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2035, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 80 percent of scheduled benefits.”
The fact that Social Security was designed to replace around 40 percent of pre-retirement income is interesting. This is because 21 percent of married elderly couples and 45 percent of unmarried elderly persons rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income! There is a big disconnect between what Social Security was designed to do and what it is being relied on for. Also, the average monthly benefit paid for Social Security retirement benefits is $1,503 per month. Not much!
The reason I point out the above facts and statistics is to demonstrate a few things: 1. Retirees are not maximizing what the program can offer them because they are making the wrong filing decisions (hence my first paragraph in this column); 2. Tens of millions of people (65 million currently receiving benefits) love and rely on their Social Security; and, 3. Many of them need more of what Social Security provides.
The above statistics and the fact that 90 percent of Americans will use this system called Social Security is why I think that helping your prospects with Social Security filing strategies is one of the best, if not the best, prospecting tools you could utilize. This is a service that is completely different from some of the concepts that are out there that only target the “rich,” like estate tax planning for instance. Nothing wrong with targeting the rich but we all know that that market is very saturated by our competition. To the contrary, this concept appeals to the masses. And when you appeal to the masses is when you get more prospects and clients than you can handle!
With the above being said, when I initially talk with agents about leveraging Social Security planning I hear a few “myths” that I need to address with the agents.
Myth 1: “Social Security will be going away so why pay attention to it?”
My Answer: False! Although this statement is made tongue in cheek many times, I do think there can be the thought that Social Security is so much in flux right now that financial professionals tying their wagon to the Social Security horse will not get them anywhere. The concern for Social Security is certainly warranted. Afterall, when Social Security was launched in 1935, to get full Social Security retirement benefits you had to be age 65. Considering that the life expectancy of a person back then was age 62, it does not take an actuary to tell you that it was actuarially flawless! Times are different today which means there is stress on the system and changes will likely happen. However, Social Security will never go away. As the aforementioned Social Security statement says, even if it was to become insolvent, we can support 80 percent of the benefits by the payroll tax revenue the federal government receives.
Again, although this “myth” is sometimes used tongue in cheek, it is a legitimate concern. However, Social Security will stick around.
Myth 2: “Now that ‘File and Suspend’ is no longer an option because of recent legislation, there are very few areas of feedback that I can provide to my clients. Filing for Social Security is more clean-cut then it used to be, and financial professionals cannot provide much value!”
My Answer: False! Although it is correct that “file and suspend” has gone the way of the mullet, there are plenty of areas where you can help your client. For instance, if a client was born prior to January 2, 1954, there is something potentially available called a “Restricted Application.” This is where he or she would be able to “restrict” their application to just the spousal benefits and continue to let his or her own benefit continue to earn delayed retirement credits.
Myth 3: “OK, so if my clients were born on or after January 2, 1954, then the opportunities for me to help my clients are really limited.”
My Answer: False! Although the conversation about filing for Social Security retirement benefits is largely a timing issue at this point, do not mistake that for being simple! Take me for example. The Gipple’s rarely make it out of their 70s in a vertical position. I don’t even buy green bananas anymore. So, that means that on the surface one would think I should just file for Social Security as early as possible (age 62) right? Wrong! This is wrong because my wife, Noelle, will live forever. She can eat eight pounds of brisket and not gain a pound. Amazing.
Anyway, by taking my benefits early I am locking her into a smaller survivor benefit once I die. So, in the end, the total lifetime value of our Social Security payments will likely be more if I delay taking SS benefits instead of taking them early. It’s not just about me, it’s about both of us. This is where CG Financial Group helps agents and their clients optimize their filing options by assessing the four chronological phases of Social Security filing:
- The first spouse files—what is the monthly benefit?
- The second spouse files—what is the total of the monthly benefits between the two spouses?
- The first spouse dies—what is the survivor benefit?
- The second spouse dies—what was the total benefit over both lifetimes?
The goal is, by the time we get to the end of number four above, the total payout from the Social Security Administration was the largest possible. As you can surmise, the amount of filing options from a timing standpoint for both spouses are numerous and we have not even gotten into Social Security taxation. That is a topic for next month. In short, do not mistake a discussion around “just timing” as being simple! Clients still need your help.
Myth 4: “There are no opportunities for me to make money by helping clients with their Social Security filing options.”
My Answer: False! The fact that you can build trust by showing your Social Security prowess will lead to you getting their other assets. Plus, those other assets need to be optimized for the various Social Security scenarios. Are the clients going to delay until age 70 and therefore need an “income bridge” from an annuity? Or, conversely, should a client file early and let their annuity with a GLWB continue to build up? By the way, there are also parallels in how annuity GLWB benefits work relative to Social Security retirement benefits that you can emphasize.
What about taxation? Is most of the client’s Social Security going to be taxable because they will have too much “provisional income?” Well, you can provide those clients with solutions (Roth IRAs) and products (cash value life) that do not add to their provisional income.
Myth 5: “I don’t want to be an expert at this because it is complicated and takes a ton of time to learn. Therefore, there are no opportunities for me to leverage Social Security in my practice.”
My Answer: False! Although Social Security is complicated, if you have clients in their 50s and 60s that you can invite to zoom calls, virtual seminars, etc., you can make money without much effort! This is by partnering with an IMO that can give the presentation for you, assess their situation for you, and design the recommendations for you. I believe that it should be the job of every financial professional to either know Social Security or be partnered with the right folks who do know Social Security.
Feel free to email me if you would like a video where I go over “Charlie and Noelle’s Social Security Case Study.”