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How are Social Security Benefits Computed?

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?

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...

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

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...

When Can I Start Receiving My Social Security Benefits?

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...

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

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...

What Kinds of Social Security Benefits Exist?

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...

How Does Social Security Work?

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...

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan After I Retire?

Usually such withdrawals will be in the form of income payments, but there may be other options. If the plan administrator allows it, you can make non-recurring (one-time) withdrawals from a pension fund. This is usually not allowed, however. The regular qualified plan distribution rules will apply as far as the IRS is concerned, and they may charge a 10% penalty if the withdrawals are taken before age 59½. After you retire, you’ll typically have two options: a fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life (also known as a Life Annuity), or a lump-sum payment. Continue reading...

How Do I Invest Money in My Pension?

Employees are not able to control investments in a Pension Fund, but you can control a few variables. You cannot direct investments in your pension. Since a pension is a type of Defined Benefit Plan provided by your employer, the company worries about the investments, and you will receive a fixed monthly payment that is calculated based on your age, salary, and number of years worked for the company. Continue reading...

What is an Accidental Death Benefit?

What is an Accidental Death Benefit?

Accidental Death Benefits are paid only if the cause of death is deemed to be an accident. Sometimes a regular life insurance or health insurance contract will offer an Accidental Death rider. The rider is appended to the contract for a relatively inexpensive additional premium and will pay a specified death benefit if the insured’s cause of death results from an accident. There are several exclusions to the definition of accident, and usually these are things like dangerous activities (sky diving, cave diving), acts of violence and war, and accidents resulting from driving under the influence or other examples where the insured has willfully put themselves in danger, or committed a crime, will usually not be covered. Continue reading...

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Any employer can offer a Defined Benefit plan, but not many do anymore. Before the introduction of Defined Contribution Plans, most large corporations such as General Electric, General Motors, etc. offered only Defined Benefit Plans. Over the years, it has put a huge burden on these corporations to guarantee the performance of these plans. If the plan has not performed according to the assumptions, the company would have to contribute the difference, which would have to come from their profits. In order to shift the burden to the employees, most companies now offer Defined Contribution Plans (such as 401(k)s, etc.) instead of Defined Benefit Plans. Continue reading...

What is Publication 15-b on Fringe Benefits?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here IRS Publication 15-b outlines the different types of fringe benefits available to employees and describes which ones are taxable to the employee and which ones are not. Fringe benefits might include anything from the use of a company car to an employee life insurance policy paid for by the employer. Fringe benefits may be provided to regular employees or independent contractors (1099 employees). Some examples of fringe benefits include tuition reduction, group disability and cafeteria plans, and childcare benefits. Continue reading...

What Happens to My Annuity After I Die?

Annuities allow you to designate beneficiaries, but the payouts or benefits they receive depend on the wording in the contract, and can vary greatly. Annuities, even if they are designated as Individual IRAs or qualified accounts, can have joint annuitants. This way, if an income stream has been elected that is joint-life, then your beneficiary, whether a spouse or even a younger family member, will continue to receive payments for life. These options can all be elected at purchase. Continue reading...

What Amount of Life Insurance Should I Have?

What Amount of Life Insurance Should I Have?

You may hear different things about the amount of life insurance that you need. An easy way some suggest is to take your annual income and multiply it by 10. But that doesn’t take everything into account, such as debts, specific things you want the money to do, or a safe withdrawal rate to give your beneficiaries an income that you want them to have if something happens to you. The right number could be more like 20 times your annual income, but it all depends on the purpose of the money and your financial situation. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Lump-Sum Distribution From My Pension Plan?

There is no guaranteed option to make lump-sum distributions from pension plans. You may be able to take a lump-sum distribution, but the option is not always available. Most employers are eager to get another participant (liability) off the books. This kind of settlement is a lot like a debt settlement, in fact, that’s exactly what it is to the plan fund. As long as you are part of the plan, you represent an unknown quantity of liability, because they have to keep paying your benefits, and possibly spousal benefits for as long as either of you shall live. This is an option you may have upon reaching retirement, if the plan offers it to you. Continue reading...

For How Long Will I Receive My Social Security Benefits?

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...

What are the Basics of Life Insurance?

Life insurance guarantees that a death benefit is paid if an insured person dies while the policy is in effect. Various kinds of life insurance exist, and people buy various amounts of coverage for different purposes, most often to provide for the insured’s dependents if the insured dies prematurely. Life insurance represents a contractual obligation by a company to pay a death benefit to an insured person’s designated beneficiaries if the person dies while the policy is in force. Continue reading...

What is the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS)?

What is the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS)?

The FERS includes the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and other benefits available to employees of the federal government. The eligible features of FERS may be different for the employees of different branches and agencies of the government. Civilian and military personnel are included in FERS. FERS is essentially comprised of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is a 401(k)-type plan for federal employees, and, in most cases, a Federal employee retirement annuity. The Thrift Savings plan has lower fees than most 401(k)s and offers several kinds of index funds to employees. Continue reading...

How are My Retirement Benefits Computed?

How are My Retirement Benefits Computed?

Each Defined Benefit Plan has its own formula and therefore its own calculations. These formulas need to be arranged by an enrolled actuary to insure that they’ll work over time and will hold up to IRS scrutiny. In general, however, the calculations are strongly based on factors such as your age, your salary, and the number of years you have spent working for the company. For every bit of salary you collect, or length of time you add to your tenure, you add incremental amounts to the set benefit waiting for you in retirement. Continue reading...

What’s the Difference between a Defined Benefit Plan and a Defined Contribution Plan?

Defined Benefit plans and Defined Contribution plans can sometimes look similar, but the main difference is what is certain and defined. In a Defined Benefit Plan, your employer guarantees you a certain fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life, so the benefit is said to be defined. A Defined Contribution Plan’s only certainty is the amount that went into the employee account, so the contributions are defined. Continue reading...