Last week, we had no idea that congress and the president would act so quickly on such an important issue!
Social Security changes: How will they impact your retirement plan?
This new budget bill will significantly impact the retirement plans of many individuals nearing or in retirement. Beginning in 2016, the bill would stop the benefits of…[continued below video]
Guarantees, including optional benefits, are backed by the claims-paying ability of the issuer, and may contain limitations, including surrender charges, which may affect policy values. During these segments, Dick and Eric are referring to Fixed Annuities unless otherwise specified.
[continued]…spouses, divorced spouses or children on the work record of a spouse, ex-spouse or parent who has suspended his or her Social Security benefit with the plan of restarting their benefit later. This strategy is often referred to as the “file and suspend” strategy. However, these recent changes eliminate the said strategy effective May 2016 for all future retirees.
If you have not planned to use “file and suspend” or implemented this Social Security strategy, you might just be saying “so what?” But as financial planners who pride themselves in helping clients optimize their retirement income, congress has just undone tens of thousands of optimized retirement plans across this nation, especially for those who do not reach full retirement age by May of 2016. They will not be grandfathered in and are directly affected in an adverse way by these changes. What these Social Security changes effectively do is to possibly cause couples to file for their own benefits earlier than they would have under the old rules in order to meet their retirement spending needs. For many, this loss can be a significant portion of their total retirement income.
So, in order to protect retirement lifestyles, many couples will have to file for each of their Social Security income benefits simultaneously and earlier than planned. By filing earlier, they are losing out on the compounding growth available to individuals who delay taking Social Security until as late as 70. One major impact this will have is on the additional compounding effect provided by the cost of living adjustments (COLA); that under the old rules, Social Security payments could have been deferred longer by one of the spouses to lessen the impact of inflation by creating a larger benefit base for (COLA) income benefiting both spouses.
For many Americans, Social Security is a cornerstone of their retirement income plan. It is unfortunate that with the raise of hands, congress has undone the retirement benefits promised to so many American families.
Navigating The Effective Date Deadlines For The New File-And-Suspend And Restricted Application Rules
With last week’s “surprise” legislation that revealed Congress is killing the File-and-Suspend and Restricted Application claiming strategies for maximizing Social Security benefits, even those who weren’t previously aware of the strategies are now wondering whether it’s something to take advantage of before the new rules go into effect.
Fortunately, though, the new rules do not kick in immediately. Those who are already receiving benefits are not impacted at all. And those who are full retirement age – or will reach it in the next 6 months – will still have the opportunity to file-and-suspend before the crackdown takes effect after April 29, 2016. Furthermore, anyone who was born in 1953 or earlier (or January 1st of 1954) will still be able to do a Restricted Application for spousal (or divorced ex-spouse) benefits, even if the filing doesn’t occur until years from now.
Nonetheless, the next 6 months do mark an important transition period that merits a close look at Social Security claiming strategies, for the brief time window that all of the tools remain on the table, whether it’s an individual filing and suspending for a potential lump sum reinstatement in the future, a couple claiming spousal benefits, or a family claiming dependent or disabled child benefits while delaying individual retirement benefits until age 70. And for those “lucky” enough to be born in 1953 or earlier, only a few years remain to consider a Restricted Application, before that deadline ends, too!
The Near-Term Expiration Of The File and Suspend Strategy For Married Couples
How File-And-Suspend Used To Work
The original version of File-And-Suspend allowed someone, upon reaching full retirement age, to file for Social Security retirement benefits, and then immediately suspend them. The fact that benefits had been filed for meant a spouse became eligible for spousal benefits (as spousal benefits cannot be claimed until the primary worker also files for benefits). However, the fact that benefits of the primary worker were subsequently suspended – and therefore were not actually received – meant that the original filer could still earn delayed retirement credit increases of 8%/year for waiting.
Example 1. John and Mary are both age 66, and have been married for 40 years, in a household where John was the primary breadwinner and Mary never worked outside the household. John is eligible for a retirement benefit of $2,000/month at his full retirement age, and Mary at her full retirement age will have no retirement benefit of her own, but will be eligible for a spousal benefit of $1,000/month, equal to 50% of John’s full benefit.
John wants to delay his benefits until age 70, increasing his benefit by 4 years x 8%/year of delayed retirement credits to $2,640/year (plus subsequent cost-of-living adjustments). Doing so not only boosts his own benefit, but increases the size of John’s survivor benefit that would be payable to Mary if John dies first.
However, waiting until John turns 70 means that Mary won’t receive any of her $1,000/month spousal benefits until then either, since Mary cannot get spousal benefits until John actually files for his own. And since there are no delayed retirement credits for spousal benefits, the extra 4 years of waiting just means Mary permanently loses those 4 years of $1,000/month benefits with no benefit in return!
To resolve this issue, John would File-and-Suspend upon becoming eligible at his full retirement age of 66. By doing so, Mary becomes eligible to claim her own $1,000/month spousal benefit (which she can receive in full, since she too is age 66), accumulating 4 years’ worth of spousal benefits she otherwise wouldn’t have received. (If Mary had been younger, she could have also claimed, but her spousal benefits would be reduced for starting early.) And John still gets the 8%/year delayed retirement credit increases for delaying his own benefits until age 70.
The fundamental point – with File-and-Suspend, John could allow Mary to get her spousal benefits, while still delaying his own benefits to earn the 8%/year delayed retirement credits.
How File-And-Suspend Will Work Now
Under the new rules in Section 831 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, when John suspends his benefits, he will suspend not only his own benefits, but any/all benefits payable to other individuals based on his earnings record. And since Mary’s spousal benefits are 50% of John’s benefits – and therefore are based on his earnings – then the entire File-and-Suspend strategy is effectively dead.
Now, if John were to file-and-suspend, he will suspend his benefits and Mary’s benefits, so no one gets any benefits. Which means if John wants to delay his benefits to earn delayed retirement credits, Mary will have to wait on claiming her spousal benefits, too. [continue reading about the changes at kitces.com]