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What Issues Should I Consider With My Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Social Security retirement benefits can be particularly complex, and clients really struggle with their decision on how to file.

With our guidance, clients will be able to determine how to best approach their Social Security retirement benefits, and whether their benefits may tie in with other financial planning goals. We get a step ahead and are prepared to provide thoughtful answers to our client’s many questions.

This checklist covers the key issues to consider when a client must make a decision surrounding their Social Security retirement benefits, such as:

  • Determining whether they should file early or delay their benefits.

  • Understanding the claiming options they have at their disposal.

  • Coordinating their benefits with the spouse or ex-spouse.

  • Understanding how their benefits may impact other tax-planning goals

Planning for retirement involves various aspects, and one critical consideration is determining the best approach to Social Security retirement benefits. Many individuals struggle with making decisions regarding their benefits, as the rules and options can be complex. To address this challenge, Gateway Financial, led by Todd Pouliot, has developed a comprehensive checklist to guide clients in understanding and optimizing their Social Security retirement benefits. In this blog post, we will delve into the key areas covered in the checklist, highlighting the important factors to consider.

  1. Verify your Social Security benefits estimate: It is crucial to ensure that your income has been accurately reflected on your Social Security benefits estimate. Most people overlook this step, but it is essential to visit and obtain your benefits statement. Review your primary insurance amount (PIA) and check for any reductions due to the government pension offset (GPO) or windfall elimination provision (WEP).

  2. Timing considerations: Deciding when to start claiming Social Security benefits can significantly impact your overall retirement strategy. Factors to consider include your health, longevity, marital status, dependents, and savings. Evaluate the advantages of filing early versus delaying benefits, such as cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and attractive growth through delayed retirement credits.

  3. Coordinating benefits with your spouse or ex-spouse: If you are married or divorced, understanding how your Social Security benefits can be coordinated with those of your spouse is crucial. Consider spousal benefits, survivor benefits, and the potential impact of remarriage on benefit eligibility. Discuss the implications of claiming strategies with your financial advisor.

  4. Meeting eligibility requirements and income thresholds: Ensure that you have accumulated the required 40 social security credits for receiving benefits. If you are still working, be aware of the earnings test that applies to benefits claimed before your full retirement age (FRA). Explore strategies to optimize your income and minimize the reduction in benefits due to earnings.

  5. Non-covered employment and pension implications: If you have worked in a non-covered employment position, such as state or federal government jobs, your Social Security retirement benefits may be affected by the GPO or WEP. Understand how these provisions impact your benefits and plan accordingly.

  6. Tax planning considerations: Take into account how Social Security retirement benefits can be coordinated and optimized with other tax planning goals. Provisional income calculations, adjusted gross income (AGI), and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) play a role in determining the taxability of your benefits and the potential impact on Medicare premiums. Consult a tax professional to explore strategies for reducing taxation on your benefits during low-income tax years.

  7. Business ownership and spouse employment: If you are a business owner, consider shifting income toward wages to increase the amount you and your spouse pay into Social Security. This strategy can impact both your own benefits and potential spousal benefits. Evaluate the potential benefits and consult a tax planner to assess the implications.

Maximizing your Social Security retirement benefits requires careful consideration of various factors. By following Gateway Financial's comprehensive checklist, you can make informed decisions tailored to your unique circumstances. Remember to consult with a qualified financial advisor or tax professional to ensure the strategies align with your long-term goals. Visit for additional resources and access to updated checklists and flowcharts. Plan ahead, understand the options available to you, and make the most of your Social Security retirement benefits.

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