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How Does Social Security Work?

Social Security uses mandatory payroll taxes to grow trust funds that are used to pay income to retirees and other qualifying persons. Any surplus that is collected in a given year and not paid out is used to purchase Treasury Bonds, which pay a guaranteed rate of interest to the trusts and allows the government to use this surplus money in the meantime. When you receive your paycheck, you’ll see a deduction for FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act), which is a “combined payroll tax” for both Social Security and Medicare. Continue reading...

When Will Social Security Go Bankrupt?

Most estimates project that the Social Security Trust Funds will be depleted by 2037. The system could still function at 70% of their full obligations by transferring cash flow directly from social security taxes to the retired beneficiaries, which most people don’t realize when they spread the news that the system is tanking. Adjustments to the system and interest rates could change how this plays out and keep it operating closer to full capacity. Continue reading...

How are Social Security Benefits Computed?

Social Security retirement benefits are computed by finding the average monthly income of a worker during the highest-earning 35 years of employment, and then it plugs that amount into a formula for to determine their full benefit at Normal Retirement Age (NRA). A person may then choose to take benefits before or after NRA, with applicable reductions or additions. There are different equations for spousal benefits, survivor’s benefits, and maximum family benefits. Continue reading...

How Much Does (and Will) Social Security Pay?

Social Security uses a formula that applies a factor to your average monthly income from the 35 years in which you earned the most. The benefit will be calculated for your Normal Retirement Age (67 for most people today), and you should receive statements in the mail keeping you updated on your projected or actual Social Security Retirement Benefits. Every year, you should get a statement from the Social Security Administration that provides you with exact numbers. The amount depends on the age at which you retire, and the contributions you made to Social Security over the years. The formula uses the 35 years in which you earned the most, and divides it by the total number of months in 35 years, which is 420, which leads to your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). Continue reading...

What Kinds of Social Security Benefits Exist?

Social Security benefits are streams of income available for retired workers, their spouses, children and dependents, and survivors. It provides insurance against longevity, disability, and, to some extent, the death of the primary contributor. Social Security benefits are available to a worker and their dependents if the worker has triggered eligibility, which usually calculated as earning over $5,040 for 10 years, but is modified if the worker dies or is disabled at a young age. Benefits can be paid to multiple people within a household (and an ex-spouse) based on one worker’s contributions to the system, up to a Maximum Family Limit, which is somewhere between 150-180% of a worker’s full benefit amount. Continue reading...

What are the Projections for Social Security Benefits?

It looks like the Social Security Trust Funds may be depleted by 2037. The system can most likely continue while paying reduced benefits that come directly from the current social security taxes to the workforce. Estimates are that the Social Security Administration could pay about 70% of its obligations at that point. There is enough money to pay Social Security benefits at the current rate until about 2037. Continue reading...

What is the Best Age to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

Generally speaking, the closer you are to age 70, the better. But everyone will need to take all of their options into account and use some planning tools or the assistance of a professional planner to arrive at an ideal cash flow scenario for retirement. All assets should be brought into consideration, as well as the possible social security benefits of both spouses and their spousal benefits. There is no one “best age” to start receiving the Social Security benefits. Everyone has a Normal Retirement Age (NRA), which determines the age at which you can receive your “full” Social Security benefits, but you can defer your benefits past this point to receive an 8% increase for every additional year you deferred your benefit. Note that benefits cannot be deferred past age 70. Continue reading...

Are Social Security Benefits Taxed?

Many people do not realize that their Social Security Benefits may be taxed. If you have a taxable income in retirement above a certain threshold, up to 85% of your social security benefits can be taxed. The calculation for the threshold income actually includes half of your social security benefits. Whether or not you trigger taxation on your benefits will depend on your “combined” income, which is a sum of your adjusted gross income (taxable income, which can include taxable sources such as qualified retirement plans), your nontaxable interest (from Muni bonds in particular, Roth IRAs are excludable), and half of your household Social Security benefits. Continue reading...

Am I Eligible for Social Security Benefits?

Social Security will pay benefits to those who have paid into the system, their beneficiaries in many cases, and also to some disabled individuals who have not paid into the system. In general, Social Security Benefits will only be paid in cases where individuals paid into the system. The exception is Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is actually paid from the general tax revenue of the government, and not the actual Social Security trust funds, though it is administered by the Social Security Administration. Continue reading...

How Much Money Does the Government Have Invested in Social Security?

As of 2016, there is about $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Funds, if you include what is owed to it by the Treasury for the bonds purchased with the surplus funds every year. The funds in the Trust are partitioned from the rest of the government budget, but the surplus year to year is invested in Treasury Bonds which effectively gives the government temporary use of the funds in exchange for a market-value interest rate. Continue reading...

When Can I Start Receiving My Social Security Benefits?

You cannot claim your own social security benefit until you have reached age 62, and you have to start taking them by the time you reach age 70. You can actually start receiving benefits while you are still working, but your benefits will be reduced if you are younger than Normal Retirement Age. Currently, you have to be 62 years or older to start receiving Social Security benefits, and this includes spouses who wish to claim spousal benefits. You must start to receive benefits at age 70. Keep in mind that the longer you defer your benefits, the greater your Social Security payments will be (until age 70 of course). Continue reading...

Will My Spouse and Children Receive Social Security Benefits if I Die?

Spouses and children can and do receive social security benefits upon the death of a person who paid into the system. A spouse who is older than 60 will always be able to receive either a majority of the benefit that was (or would have been) paid to you, using their own age against the full benefit amount that was part of your benefit equation. Children, including dependent grandchildren, can receive a payment equal to 75% of your full benefit amount until they are about 18. Continue reading...

How Does My Retirement Age Impact My Social Security Benefits?

Social Security benefits are calculated using the Normal Retirement Age (NRA), which is 67 for people born after 1960. If you take benefits early, your payment will be reduced by as much as 30% if taken at age 62. After NRA, your benefit will be increased by 8% for every year you defer benefits. You cannot defer taking Social Security past age 70. As a rule of thumb, the closer to age 70 you retire, the higher your Social Security benefits will be. Of course, there are some specific guidelines. Everyone has an NRA (Normal Retirement Age), which determines the age at which you can receive your full Social Security benefits. Continue reading...

Will My Pension Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

Not in the way you’re probably thinking, but the answer may be yes. Generally speaking, the answer is no. Your Social Security payments depend on two factors only: the age you started to receive Social Security benefits, and the amount of contributions you made to Social Security over the years. Your pension comes from your employer, and Social Security comes from the government. However, your tax liabilities might depend on the combination of your pension and Social Security benefits, and you social security benefits can actually be taxed. In one of the few calculations that has not been indexed for inflation lately, if your retirement income is over a certain number, up to 85% of your social security may be subject to tax as income. Continue reading...

For How Long Will I Receive My Social Security Benefits?

After the payments begin, you'll receive Social Security benefits for the rest of your life. People worry that the Social Security system will run out of money, but as long as there are some workers paying into the system, it will be able to pay at least a reduced benefit to retirees. The system can be tweaked easily enough for full benefits to continue to all those to whom it is owed, barring some reductions for taxation on benefits and possible reductions based on income from other sources. After the payments begin, you’ll receive Social Security benefits for the rest of your life. It works like a pension. Continue reading...

Will My Cash-Balance Payments Affect My Social Security payments?

Social security can become taxable if a person has a certain level of income in retirement. Retirement income from pensions or 401(k)s and other taxable sources will contribute to the AGI of a person in retirement, but it will not ever disqualify a person from receiving their social security check in retirement if it is owed to them. Instead, social security benefits become taxable as income if a person has enough income in retirement to trigger the social security taxes. The level is actually quite low, and has not been adjusted for inflation recently. Continue reading...

What is an S-Corporation?

S-Corporations, also called S-corps, are a cross between a traditional corporation and an LLC. S-Corporations are companies which, as opposed to C-Corporations, do not pay any federal income tax on their earnings, except in a few exceptional cases. Instead, the earnings (or losses) are passed to the shareholders and will appear on their individual income tax reports. The “S” comes from the subchapter of the Internal Revenue Code where the taxation laws are outlined. S-corps can actually be owned and operated by a sole proprietor after incorporating or starting an LLC in the state of residence and filing IRS form 2253 (link to instructions and form — found here). Continue reading...

How do my IRA Withdrawals Get Taxed During Retirement?

Different IRAs have different tax treatments. Traditional IRAs, as well as SEPs, SIMPLEs, and 401(k)s are all taxed as income in retirement. Roth IRAs are not taxed. Traditional IRAs and the other pretax accounts will have distributions that are also includable in the Modified Adjusted Gross Income calculations which may subject them to 3.8% Medicare surtax, as well as the income calculations which determine what portion of Social Security income may be taxable in retirement. Continue reading...

Can I Start Collecting My Social Security Benefits If I’m Still Working?

Yes, you can start receiving social security benefits before you actually stop working, and your benefit amount will not be affected if you have attained normal retirement age, or NRA, which is determined based on the year of your birth. NRA is 67 for most people today. If you start to take benefits while working and before the normal retirement age, your benefit will be reduced. But there are a few caveats to consider if you start to receive the benefits before your normal retirement age. Continue reading...

What is Income?

Income is a stream, series, or lump sum of cash or cash equivalents that is paid to an individual or entity based on work performed, goods sold, ownership rights, or by being a creditor to whom interest is paid. It is received when a net result is positive, and is sometimes referred to as the “bottom line.” Income can be viewed from a itemized, current perspective or as a balance sheet item for an entire accounting period, such as a year. It also might be discussed as a gross (pre-tax) or net (post-tax) amount. Continue reading...