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Last Chance to Maximize Social Security Benefits?

| November 03, 2015
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Social Security



If you have already turned 62 or will be turning 62 this year you still have a shot to maximize your social security benefits.  If you are younger than 62 and are married, Congress has decided to reduce your potential Social Security benefits by taking away some of your options.  This all came as a result of the Obama Administration’s budget deal, was passed by both houses of Congress last week and was signed into law yesterday.  The government has determined that by allowing certain couples to plan for Social Security by utilizing strategies that could allow them to earn more over time, that they were losing $9.5 billion in annual benefits. 

In 1937, the first American started receiving Social Security benefits based upon a program that was originally intended to supplement the retirement income for Old-Age workers to reduce those falling into poverty in their later years. 

At the time Social Security benefits were enacted, the average life expectancy for males was age 58 and 62 for females.  Workers at the time needed to attain age 65 in order to qualify for benefits. Over time it has expanded to include benefits for non-working spouses, widows, children, benefits for disabled workers and early retirement benefits beginning as soon as age 62.

In order to combat the growing costs and long-term sustainability problems with social security, several changes have been implemented over the past few decades. 

In the 1980s, the government changed the way that inflation is figured.  According to ShadowStats, Social Security payments should be roughly twice what they are currently if the changes in the way inflation is calculated were not enacted.  follow link here

Also in the 1980s, the government started changing the full retirement date for Americans.   Rather than retiring at 65, most retirees can now get full benefits at 66.  This retirement age creeps up to age 67 for those born after 1960 and may continue to creep over time.

In the 1990s the government started taxing up to 85% of Social Security benefits. 

Earlier this decade the government changed the ability to be able to revise your election so that once you made the election it was locked in.  This has made Social Security planning more paramount as you only have 12 months from the date you start receiving benefits to elect the do-over provision.  This also requires you to pay back all of the benefits you have already received and the option is only available once.

Now they are taking away another one of our options.  Congress has decided to close a perceived “loophole” in the Social Security rules. Now, it will no longer be possible to file a “restricted application” for just spousal benefits. And with an extension of the “suspension” rules that stipulate suspending an individual’s benefits will also suspend any benefits to other people based on the same earnings record, Congress has killed off the various “File and Suspend” strategies to allow spousal and dependent benefits to be paid while still earning delayed retirement credits.   Perhaps most notable for the new Social Security crackdown, though, is the effective date for the rules. While the new limits to “Restricted Applications” will not apply to anyone who is already age 62 or older in 2015, the new crackdown will kick in 6 months from now (thanks to a recent amendment to the original legislation), grandfathering anyone currently going through file-and-suspend but limiting anyone who tries to suspend benefits thereafter.  Beyond that point, anyone who suspends will find that no benefits will be payable until the individual who suspended chooses to reinstate benefits (either to restart them now, or finish waiting until age 70).

We have been educating clients on these rules for a couple of years now.  If you would like to get a DVD of one of our recent Social Security Workshops please feel free to contact us by email at  A good article explaining some of the law changes was produced by Time magazine recently.



Means Testing?– Another idea that has been suggested in the past would include means testing Social Security benefits.  Those with substantial financial assets or pension income may become in-eligible for some or all of their Social Security benefits.   While details would still need to be ironed out, it has been suggested by mainstream politicians including Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie.

More adjustments to the retirement age?  An option that has already been suggested when the Social Security full-retirement age was pushed back from 65 to a maximum of 67, would be further extending the age for receiving full retirement benefits.  For the children of those currently drawing retirement,  social security may only be available to those over 70 and may not be available for those who choose to save for retirement.

Many people believe Social Security benefits will be available in some form for those within 10-15 years of retirement.  The government will likely continue to alter the programs in such a way as to water down benefits without making broad reforms or reductions.  Politicians want to keep their jobs, first and foremost. 

If you are older than 62 or will be turning 62 this year, we would advise making sure that you get your Social Security benefit plan mapped out as soon as possible before the government takes away your options. 

If you would like to get a DVD of one of our recent Social Security Workshops please feel free to contact us by email at

For more facts on Social Security, feel free to follow this link.



Data as of Oct 30, 2015



Joe D. Franklin, CFP is Founder and President of Franklin Wealth Management, a registered investment advisory firm in Hixson, Tennessee. A 20-year industry veteran, he contributes guest articles for Money Magazine and authors the Franklin Backstage Pass blog.  Joe has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger's Magazine, USA Today and other publications.


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