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

As individuals approach retirement, they often contemplate how various sources of income will affect their Social Security payments. While retirement income from pensions, 401(k)s, and other taxable sources may contribute to their adjusted gross income (AGI), it is crucial to understand whether cash-balance payments will have an impact on Social Security benefits. In this article, we will explore the relationship between cash-balance payments and Social Security and shed light on the potential tax implications involved.

Understanding Taxation of Social Security Benefits

It is important to note that receiving cash-balance payments does not disqualify individuals from receiving their Social Security checks if they are owed to them. The taxation of Social Security benefits occurs when a person's income in retirement reaches a certain threshold, triggering the imposition of Social Security taxes. It is worth mentioning that this threshold is relatively low and has not been adjusted for inflation in recent years.

Determining Taxable Social Security Income

To assess the taxability of Social Security benefits, half of an individual's household Social Security income is added to their taxable income from other sources. If the total income, as determined by this formula, exceeds $44,000, up to 85% of their Social Security income becomes taxable. It is important to remember that certain sources of income, such as Roth IRAs and life insurance cash value loans, are excluded from this calculation.

Surprising Inclusions and Implications

One notable inclusion in the calculation of taxable income is tax-free municipal bond income. This means that even though such income is tax-exempt at the federal level, it is still considered when determining the taxability of Social Security benefits. This aspect can catch many Americans off guard, as they may not anticipate the potential tax implications on their retirement income.

Planning for the Impact

Given the potential tax implications, it is crucial for individuals to plan ahead and understand the impact of cash-balance payments on their Social Security benefits. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Review Your Retirement Income Strategy: Consider consulting with a financial advisor to develop a comprehensive retirement income strategy that accounts for the tax implications of various income sources, including cash-balance payments.

  2. Optimize Tax-Efficient Withdrawals: Explore strategies for tax-efficient withdrawals from retirement accounts to minimize the overall tax burden on your income, including Social Security benefits.

  3. Evaluate Investment Alternatives: While tax-free municipal bond income is included in the calculation, it's important to assess other investment alternatives that may provide tax advantages without affecting Social Security benefits.

  4. Stay Informed about Tax Law Changes: Be aware of potential adjustments to tax laws that may impact the taxability of Social Security benefits. Staying informed can help you proactively adapt your financial plans.


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.

Half of a person’s household social security income will be added to the taxable income from other sources, and for those whose income using that formula is over $44,000, up to 85% of their social security income becomes taxable. Roth IRAs and life insurance cash value loans are the only sources of income that are not included in this calculation of income.

Notably, tax-free muni bond income is included. Considering the amount that many people have paid-in to social security over the years, this tax treatment can be an unpleasant surprise for many Americans.

How Does My Retirement Age Impact My Social Security Benefits?
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