Whenever I talk about retirement, inevitably I’ll get a question about Social Security.
The questions always come down to this: “Will Social Security be around when I’m ready to retire?”
It’s a fair question because “nonretired Americans have become somewhat more likely to say Social Security will be “a major source” of income in their retirement, according to a Gallup poll.
Gallup said this belief is strongest among younger (age 18 to 29) and older (age 50 to 64) folks.
So what do the numbers look like for Social Security?
Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan crunched some numbers: Let’s run the fantasy math on Social Security
“Although Social Security’s programs are self-sufficient on paper, in reality they’re running into major problems,” he writes. “I’m not saying that Social Security is about to go under, which it isn’t; or that its programs are a fraud or Ponzi scheme, which they aren’t.”
Sloan writes that we should be concerned.
“Preserving Social Security in anything like its current form for our kids and grandkids involves sacrifice, not financial subterfuge,” he says. “We have to put in more cash and slow the growth in benefit outlays. Trusting in trust funds and ignoring reality won’t end well. You can trust me on that.”
Social Security scam
If what Sloan has to say isn’t scary enough, there’s a new scam out there you need to avoid, according to the Social Security Administration.
The agency said in a warning last week that seniors have been reporting that people are calling pretending to be an administration employee.
The callers claim victims are entitled to a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment increase of their Social Security benefits. But it’s all a lie. What these criminals really want is your financial information.
The impersonators “ask the victim to verify all of their personal information including their name, date of birth, Social Security number, parents’ names, etc. to receive the increase. If the impersonator is successful in acquiring this information, they use it to contact SSA and request changes to the victim’s direct deposit, address and telephone information,” according to the Social Security warning.
People may be falling for this scam because the agency sometimes will contact folks by telephone. So to be safe, no matter who calls, don’t confirm or give out any of your personal information if you did not initiate the contact. Instead call your local Social Security office or Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 800-772-1213.
If you’ve been victimized by this scam call 800-269-0271 or submit a fraud report to the Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General.
Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement. Did you retire early and if so, how did you do it?
Is retirement everything you hoped for?
Are you scared you’ll run out of money?
What you share might help others. So send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
Thought I’d share the retirement rave of the week. It comes from Clyde K.
“My wife and I retired in June 2015, and we have wondered why we waited so long,” he wrote. “Actually, there was a very good reason, my wife could not retire until then and I did not want all the extra time on my hands without her.”
Okay, can I jump in here? How sweet was that?
Anyway, Clyde went on to write, “We are enjoying our retirement so much. So far it has been awesome. I am 73 and my wife is 64. We have traveled a lot. We have bought a small motor home and have made a nine-week trip and a four-week trip plus some shorter ones. We have another four-week trip planned to begin in October to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. We have taken three cruises since we retired and have another one scheduled in January 2018 for a full Panama Canal transit. Most of our money is in Exchange Traded Funds. All proceeds are reinvested. We are in the moderate risk range with about 60 percent in stock type ETFs. We are taking out more than my required minimum distribution (RMD) to boost our retirement income to pay for travel. We have delayed taking my wife’s Social Security until she turns 70. We plan to have her draw on my Social Security when she turns 66 and then switch to her account at age 70, which we think will produce a higher income stream. That is our basic structure and how we feel about being retired. RETIREMENT HAS BEEN GREAT SO FAR.”
Clyde mentioned two things — RMD and ETFs — that you might want to know more about. Here’s some information on both:
I believe that wealth happens intentionally and that means for me reading as much as I can about all things financial, especially retirement.
In this section of the newsletter, I’ll feature postings from various retirement blogs.
A reader, Rita, had a Social Security question that she thought would help her and other seniors.
She wrote: There was a procedure known as “file and suspend” but I don’t know how to do this. I am trying to find something definitive, in writing, that I can show to Social Security to collect benefits.
To answer her question I found a very informative blog posting by former Washington Post retirement columnist Stan Hinden.
Hinden wrote a blog post about this issue for AARP. The headline answers the larger question: Life After ‘File and Suspend’
As Hinden reports, “file and suspend” is history.
“The changes to Social Security were part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which averted the threat of a government shutdown. To save money for Social Security, Congress eliminated a longtime claiming strategy.”
There was a small window to take advantage of the strategy, but it closed.
Hinden writes: “Acceptance of new applications for file and suspend officially ended on April 30,  six months after the enactment of the legislation (though qualifying people who had filed before that were grandfathered in).”
If you want to know about a related known as “Restricted Application” click here.
Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.
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