Posts Tagged "Retirement Earnings Test"
January 3, 2023
Readers’ Favorite Retirement Blogs: 2022
Older Americans who want to be smart about retirement finances are curious about the intricacies of Social Security.
The blog that drew the most traffic from our readers last year – “The Bridge to a Larger Social Security Check” – suggested a strategy for getting more out of the program: delay signing up for Social Security by withdrawing savings from a 401(k) to pay the bills.
Each year that Social Security is postponed adds 7 percent to 8 percent to a retiree’s monthly benefit check. A couple of years of delay, funded with savings, can provide significantly more money, month after month, to pay the bills. The researchers concluded from an experiment that asked older workers to consider the delay strategy that a substantial minority “are interested in a bridge option despite its unfamiliarity.”
Another popular blog last year was about an experiment involving another unfamiliar concept fundamental to the program: the Retirement Earnings Test. In “Explaining Social Security’s Earnings Test,” readers learned that any reduction in benefits that occurs if they simultaneously work and collect the benefit in their early to mid-60s is not a tax.
Instead, under Social Security’s rules, some of an older worker’s benefits may be deferred. The benefits are incrementally added back into his monthly checks after he reaches his full retirement age under the program. Understanding that the reduction in benefits is a deferral, rather than an outright cut, is an important aspect of the program that is increasingly important for older workers looking for strategies to improve their standard of living in retirement.
If delaying Social Security is good for older workers’ financial security, the article “COVID’s Impact on Social Security Claiming” delivered a little good news. The generous, extended unemployment benefits approved by Congress made it easier for older workers who lost their jobs during the 2020 spike in unemployment to remain in the labor force rather than sign up early for their benefits and lock in a smaller monthly check.
This positive pandemic trend was a stark contrast to the Great Recession. During months of protracted unemployment following the 2008 financial crisis, jobless older workers became more likely to resort to signing up for Social Security because they needed income.
One aspect of retiring and aging that can really throw a wrench in financial planning is medical costs. In “A Start on Estimating Retiree Medical Costs,” the researcher estimates that retirees with average healthcare needs must cover about 22 percent of their total out-of-pocket costs, excluding premiums, or just over $67,000 in total over their remaining lives. Retirees needing high levels of care can spend twice as much.
Another unknown: long-term care. A study covered in “Spouse in Nursing Home Raises Poverty Risk” finds that one in three married people in their early 70s is likely to have a spouse who will eventually wind up in a nursing home. Not all nursing home stays are for an extended period of time. But if an unlucky spouse does have a long stay, the couple is significantly more likely to become impoverished while paying for the care.
Other popular blog topics in 2022 included Medicare, work, and profiles of individual retirees: …Learn More
May 19, 2022
Explaining Social Security’s Earnings Test
The reduction in benefits for some people who collect Social Security while simultaneously working is frequently called a “tax.”
It is not a tax. Under a Social Security rule known as the Retirement Earnings Test (RET), some benefits are withheld if the worker earns above a certain level – $19,560 in 2022 – and has not yet reached his full retirement age under the program. At that age, the government starts paying the deferred benefits back incrementally.
As older workers plot a path to retirement, they should have a clear understanding of this financial impact. But a new study finds they have a poor grasp of the tradeoff that is the central feature of the RET: a smaller monthly check now, while they’re working, in return for a bigger check later.
Failing to understand this concept has real world consequences. Retirement experts encourage boomers to work as much as possible to improve their finances. But someone who doesn’t understand the RET might decide against working more to prevent a perceived benefit cut.
The researchers experimented with how to improve understanding of the RET by showing some 1,000 older workers numerous graphic representations of the financial impact. The best way to illustrate the study’s main finding – that a bar chart emphasizing the shift in benefits from now to later worked best – is to focus here on two pairs of blue bar graphs.
Some workers saw a simple bar graph (below, left) showing that the individual who fully retired at age 62 would receive a $1,000 monthly benefit for life. A second bar graph (below, right) showed a smaller benefit – about $750 per month – for someone who started Social Security at 62 while he was still working. At 67, his full retirement age, the benefit jumps to about $1,100 when Social Security starts paying back the withheld amount.A second group of workers also saw the simple bar graph (above, left) of the 62-year-old retirees’ stable $1,000 benefit. But the second bar graph (below) illustrated the shift in benefits for a Social Security recipient who is still working. …Learn More