Frequently Asked Question

No because we do not think break even analysis is appropriate and don't include it in our results. Break even analysis determines how many years one needs to live under a patient strategy (that yields higher benefits but begins later) to make up for waiting to collect the benefits, i.e., for not collecting reduced benefits early. This immediately leads to a comparison of the break even age with one's life expectancy -- when one will, on average die. If the brea keven age exceeds life expectancy, this analysis suggests that waiting to collect is inappropriate. Nothing could be further from the truth.

By delaying receipt of your retirement benefit after FRA up to age 70, you'll earn 8% increases, called Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs), in your benefit per year. DRCs are calculated and applied on a monthly basis.

Social Security provides longevity insurance -- insurance against living not to one's life expectancy, but far beyond. None of us can count on dying on time exactly at our life expectancy. And from a financial perspective, living to our maximum, not our expected age of life, is the worse case scenario. Why? Because we need to pay for ourselves for many more years than were we to die at the age the actuaries predict.

Being patient when it comes to collecting higher Social Security benefits is a way to help us avoid running out of money before we run out of life. The years of low benefits that we forego yield much higher benefits when we begin collecting. The foregone benefits represent a form of insurance premium payment and the additional benefits we get from waiting represent an additional annuity we are buying from the Social Security system. The terms on which one can buy this additional inflation-protected longevity insurance are extremely favorable -- far better than anything available on the market.

An analogy may help convey our position. Consider homeowners insurance. No one analyzes buying homeowners insurance from a breakeven perspective because we don't have thousands of homes over which to pool the risk of small and worst case losses, such as our house burning to the ground. Because we only have one house, we can't play the odds. We can't decide whether buying a homeowners policy will break even on average. If we made such a calculation we'd never buy homeowners insurance. Why? Because the cost of homeowners insurance always exceeds the expected payout on the policy we buy due to the insurance company needing to charge its fee.

What holds for homeowners insurance holds for longevity insurance. We only have one life to lose, not thousands, so we can't pool risk over when we will die. We will die just once and it may well be at 100 or whatever is our maximum age of life. This is why our software values Social Security benefits through one's maximum, not one's expected age of life. This is not just our company's policy. This is also precisely what the economics and financial theory of longevity risk tells us to do.

Maximize My Social Security is a separate, stand-alone program that searches over thousands of benefit collection date options to find the one that produces the highest present value of lifetime earnings.

Our ESPlanner products let you enter you own selection dates, but they don't internally calculate which dates are best.

Our MaxiFi Planner products do include Social Security maximization and additional retirement account maximization in addition to base personal financial planning features, though the reports regarding Social Security and filing option information is not as detailed, and the professional version of the product does not include the Longevity and Comparison analysis reports that are available in Maximize My Social Security.

Yes. We fully account for both the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

You can enter information about pensions based on work not taxed by Social Security on the Non-Covered Pensions screen. Be sure to read and understand the instructions so you can enter the correct information.

The effects of the non-covered pension are included in the results. You can explicitly see how the GPO and WEP affect the results by temporarily deleting the non-covered pension and comparing the results with and without the non-covered pension.

Yes, you can input any number of what-if scenarios with different choice combinations and run them through our highly developed and accurate comprehensive sequence of calculations. You can download and save each report you run.

Further, we compare each different what-if scenario you enter to your maximized results. We provide detailed year-by-year breakdowns of each scenario you enter so you can compare them to equally detailed breakdowns of your maximized suggestions. This allows you to compare an essentially unlimited number of choice combinations.

Our software handles income earned by you or your spouse that is considered to be covered by Social Security due to Social Security totalization agreements. Here is more information about these international agreements.

You only enter income that is covered by Social Security into our software. The software also accounts for pensions that are considered to be non-covered by Social Security.

Please check with Social Security to determine whether any of your or your spouse's income or pensions are considered to be covered or non-covered by Social Security.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has four different calculators with varying degrees of accuracy from rough estimates to exact calculations of an individual's benefits. Their default assumptions include zero future inflation and zero future real wage growth. They calculate your benefits either on a specified date or give you three benefit estimates, at your earliest date of retirement, at full retirement age, or at your latest date of retirement. Some, but not all calculate surviving child's and surviving spouse's benefits and the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset.

None of the SSA calculators identify the filing strategy that results in the maximum lifetime benefits. So the SSA calculators don't answer questions like these:

  • For married couples, should one spouse file and suspend?
  • Who should file for spouse's benefits?
  • If you've already started collecting should you suspend collection and reinstate at a later date.
  • Our software calculates all benefits available to individuals and families except parents' benefits. We search across all filing date combinations to find the maximum lifetime benefit. This search typically looks at thousands, tens of thousands, and occasionally hundreds of thousands of possible date combinations to suggest the best strategy.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included significant changes to Social Security's rules. Our software is now fully updated to account for these new rules.

The new rules dramatically change Social Security claiming options and effectively divide each individual into one of three groups:

  1. People born on or before May 1, 1950 will be the least affected, although if they plan to suspend their retirement benefit in the future, they must request to do so before April 29, 2016. Those born on or before May 1, 1950 who will have requested suspension by April 29 will still receive auxiliary benefits, i.e. spousal and child benefits, during suspension.
  2. People born between May 2, 1950 and January 1, 1954 will see mixed effects of the new rules on their optimal benefits filing strategy.
  3. People born on or after January 2, 1954 will be the most affected in terms of the effects of filing and suspending as well as not being able to file a restricted application for either just a spousal benefit or just a retirement benefit even after their full retirement age. They will not receive auxiliary benefits during suspension.

Individuals in groups 2 and 3, as well as married couples with at least one spouse in group 2 or 3, should recalculate their maximized strategy now that our software is updated to reflect the new rules. Here's how the new rules can affect you:

  • No one can collect a spousal or child benefit based on the covered earnings record of a worker who suspends retirement benefits on or after April 30, 2016, during the period that the worker's retirement benefit remains suspended. Those born after May 1, 1950 cannot file and suspend within this window and those born on or before May 1, 1950 must request to suspend on or before April 29, 2016 to allow auxiliary benefits to be claimed on his or her record while their retirement benefit is suspended.
  • No one who requests to suspend his or her retirement benefit on or after April 30, 2016 can collect an excess spousal or excess widow(er)'s benefit while their retirement benefit is suspended
  • For those born on or after January 2, 1954, deeming is extended through age 70. Deeming is the requirement that if you take your retirement benefit and are eligible for a spousal benefit or a divorced spouse's benefit, you need to also take your spousal benefit and vice versa. This leaves you with roughly the larger of the two benefits.
  • Only those who suspend their retirement benefit on or before ​April 29​, 2016 will be able to receive a lump sum payment of previously suspended benefits. Those who suspend their retirement benefits on or after April 30, 2016 can no longer receive their suspended retirement benefits in a lump sum payment.
  • Those who are subject to deeming, but aren't deemed to be filing for their excess spousal benefits when they file for their retirement benefit because their spouse has not yet filed for his/her retirement benefit will be so deemed as of the date their spouse files for his/her retirement benefit.

Why does my retirement benefit decrease in 2017?

While the 2015 Social Security COLA, which is used to adjust 2016 benefits, was 0%, the 2015 CPI-W, the inflation index upon which the COLA is based, was -0.412%. There was deflation, i.e. negative inflation in the CPI-W index. Future inflation has to make up the deflation in 2015, which means that the 2016 COLA will be smaller than the 2016 inflation.

For example, if inflation, as measured by the CPI-W, is 3% in 2016, the 2016 COLA will be 2.6%. Hence, your 2017 benefit, in real 2016 dollars, is smaller than it would have been had there not been deflation in 2015.

What if I don't have access to my deceased or divorced spouse's past covered earnings?

Social Security will tell you your widow(er)'s benefit or your divorced spouse's benefit gross monthly estimate at your full retirement age. Be sure to ask for
your
benefit. Don't ask for your deceased spouse's or your ex-spouse's benefits. Social Security cannot, and will not, give you their benefit information because of privacy laws.

You can enter your gross monthly estimate and we can then use it to calculate any benefits you might be able to receive based on your deceased or ex spouse's record.

Why are there benefit in both the retirement benefit and spousal (or survivor) column?

This reflects the way Social Security accounts for the total spousal or total widow(er)'s benefits. The first part is based on the recipient's own work record and is listed in the retirement benefit column while the second part, the excess spousal benefit or excess widow(er)'s benefit, is based on the recipient's spouse's record and is listed either in the spousal or survivor benefit column.

Can I really suspend?

While suspending receipt of a retirement benefit is still allowed under the
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015
, the utility of doing so depends on specific birthdates.

If you were born on or before May 1, 1950, you can suspend receipt of your retirement benefit at or after your full retirement age (FRA) up to age 70 and still receive spousal and child's benefits off of you record during suspension, although the request to suspend must be made by April 29, 2016.

If you were born after May 1, 1950, you can suspend receipt of your retirement benefit at or after your full retirement age (FRA) up to age 70 but no one can receive spousal or child's benefits based on your record during suspension.

See

this rule from Social Security Administration’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS)

:

GN 02409.110 Conditions for Voluntary Suspension

A. When voluntary suspension is possible

1. Requesting voluntary suspension

Any primary retirement insurance benefit (RIB) applicant or beneficiary, whether reduced or unreduced, who has reached full retirement age (FRA) may voluntarily ask that we suspend his or her benefits to earn voluntary delayed retirement credits (VOLDRC). This request may be either written or oral, and we do not need a signature. A representative payee can make the request on behalf of the beneficiary.

Note: The receipt of disability insurance benefits (DIB) prior to RIB has no effect on a beneficiary’s request to voluntarily suspend his or her RIB.

So there is no question whatsoever that you can suspend your retirement benefit at or after your FRA.

Full POMS URL: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0202409110

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  • We don't require your real name, so you can run the program with any name you want, or even with no name.
  • We don't require Social Security Number or any account numbers.
  • We don't save or store the credit card number you use for purchase.