Research Articles and Fact Sheets
Munnell, Alicia H. and Mauricio Soto. 2005. “Why Do Women Claim Social Security Benefits So Early?” Center for Retirement Research, 35 (October). Available at: http://crr.bc.edu/briefs/why-do-women-claim-social-security-benefits-so-early.
Shuart, Amy, David Weaver, and Kevin Whitman. 2010. “Widowed Before Retirement: Social Security Benefit Claiming Strategies.” Journal of Financial Planning 23, 4: 45-53.
Click to see an abstract and find out if you have access to this article through your local library.
Social Security Administration. Windfall Elimination Provision, SSA Publication No. 05-10045. Available at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10045.html or 1-800-772-1213.
Social Security Administration. Government Pension Offset, SSA Publication No. 05-10007. Available at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.html or 1-800-772-1213.
Social Security Administration. Benefits for Children, SSA Publication No. 05-10085. Available at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10085.html or 1-800-772-1213.
Why take voluntary distributions from retirement accounts & delay Social Security?
Lance Ritchlin, Why 401k And Social Security Coordination Is Critically Important, 401kspecialist.com, http://bit.ly/Why401k (This article is targeted at financial advisers, but you may still find some of the information helpful.)
James I. Mahaney and Peter C. Carlson, Rethinking Social Security Claiming in a 401(k) World, Pension Research Council Working Paper, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Available at http://bit.ly/RethinkSocSec. (This paper was written before the 2016 changes in Social Security claiming strategies and therefore contains some dated information. However, it is still the most thorough discussion on this topic that I am aware of.)
Benefit Calculators on the Social Security Website
- Set up My Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to get benefits estimates and verify your earnings record.
- Even without a My Account, you can get an estimate:
- If you will receive a government pension from a job where you did not pay into Social Security, use one or both of the special calculators:
- The Windfall Elimination Provision affects you if your work record qualifies you for both Social Security benefits and a government pension from a job where you did not pay into Social Security http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/anyPiaWepjs04.htm
- The Government Pension Offset affects you if you may receive Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work record but will also receive a government pension from a job where you did not pay into Social Security https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/gpo-calc.html
Commercial Social Security planning tools for evaluating different claiming strategies
Search online for “Social Security calculators.” Try more than one, to see if they agree on which claiming strategy will work best in your situation. Check that the tools you use take all the factors of your situation into consideration. For example, if you have a pension from a job where you did not pay into Social Security, look for a calculator that asks for information about that pension. If you will have a dependent child at the time you file for Social Security, look for a calculator that asks if you have dependents who may qualify for a benefit based on your work record.
One calculator that I have seen recommended frequently is http://www.maximizemysocialsecurity.com/ ($40 fee/year). Another is https://www.SocialSecuritySolutions.com/ , which costs $19.95 and up, depending on the plan you select. Both of these calculators are thorough and can handle special situations.
New Rules as of 2016: File & Suspend and filing a Restricted Application
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 ended the File & Suspend strategy except for those who have already implemented the strategy, or who did so by April 29, 2016 – which means the person who files and suspends was born on or before April 30, 1950. File and suspend involves one spouse – usually the older or higher earner – filing for benefits but suspending and receiving no payments, in order to let those benefits increase from delayed retirement credits, but still allowing a younger or lower earning spouse to collect spousal benefits.
Filing a restricted application will still be available at Full Retirement Age ONLY for those born no later than January 1, 1954. Under this strategy, the filer can choose to receive only spousal benefits, and delay their own worker benefits, which will accrue delayed retirement credits until they are claimed later.
These changes do NOT impact widows and widowers; they may still file for one benefit (worker or survivor) and later switch to the other.
To get all the details, I suggest getting a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and reading one or more of these authoritative discussions.
Changes in Social Security Claiming Rules: Update for Financial Planners, a post on The SS Choices blog, spells out who will and will not be affected. It then goes on to explain the details for those who will be impacted. Note: This is written by a team that also sells software to compare Social Security claiming strategies
Michael Kitces, author of the Nerd’s Eye View blog has two excellent posts:
- Navigating the Effective Date Deadlines For The New File-And-Suspend And Restricted Application Rules – complete with examples of how things worked before the rules changed, and how they work now.
- Congress Is Killing The File-And-Suspend And Restricted Application Social Security Strategies. The legislation was amended shortly before it was signed, and the strike-outs and additions in this blog post were made to reflect those changes.