Ask an expert - John Deppe, Financial planner
Last updated 8/21/2019 at 4:47pm | View PDF
What Social Security considerations should people keep in mind?
With about 70 percent of Americans opting to collect their Social Security benefits early, many likely are not making the most of that income potential as it relates to their overall financial picture.
John Deppe, regional vice-president for Transamerica and author of "It's Your Money! Simple Strategies to Maximize Your Social Security Income," wants to help people optimize their benefits. Deppe will present the seminar "Unlocking Social Security" on Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Hinsdale Public Library in partnership with Hinsdale's Dennis Dine, regional vice president at FFCSI (see Page 26 for details).
"It's designed to help Americans make more informed, educated decisions on when and how they should file when it comes time to collect their Social Security benefits," Deppe said of the hour-long session.
The session is targeted for those ages 55-65 who have not yet made a decision on when to take income.
"Social security might be only the source of guaranteed income for life in retirement," he said. "Some don't fully understand all the ramifications that decision might have. What if I collect early? What if I wait?"
Couples in particular need to be strategic in their selection because collecting early will reduce survivor benefits when one spouse dies.
"One of the bigger issues for married couples is that their decision to collect their Social Security benefits should be viewed not as an individual decision but as a joint decision," Deppe advised. "Spousal benefits could left on the table."
Survivors also might have a choice.
"You can collect your individual benefit first and switch over to the survivor benefit or vice versa. There's a choice and there's math involved," he said.
Deppe said attendees will hear case studies of different scenarios with regard to Social Security benefits.
"We walk them through those scenarios and show them some numbers," he said. "At the end of the day, everyone's situation is different, and we want most people to get a customized scenario for their situation.
The Social Security Administration, Deppe stressed, does not provide personalized guidance, just general information. And a decision on benefits becomes permanent after 12 months.
"But within the 12-month period, you can change your decision if you repay what you received - with no interest - and essentially get a do-over," Deppe explained.
The Social Security trust fund's solvency has become a periodic political football, with the latest forecast predicting it will run dry in 2034. Of course, that's calculated using the current parameters.
"That is all based on how the law works today," Deppe said. "We will continue to see modifications and changes to the rules to ensure its solvency."
If a crystal ball could reveal each person's date of death, financial counseling would be much easier. But some mysteries are best left unsolved.
"We just want people to make more informed and smarter decisions with the choices they have available," he said.