Making Sense Of Social Security Benefits

Debbie was ready to claim her social security benefits, which she estimated would be $900 a month. She was relying on the money to help her pay the bills. Then she learned two critical facts: 1.) She was entitled to benefits as a divorced spouse whose former husband she’d been married to at least 10 years, and 2.) She qualified for even higher benefits because her ex had died.

Turns out, Debbie’s new monthly benefits would exceed $2,000! She never dreamed her former marriage would bring her such good news.

Paul wanted to start taking his social security benefits when he was 62.  He had worked long and hard, he thought, and he felt he “deserved” to get the benefits as soon as possible. When he learned that his decision to claim for social security early would negatively impact his wife Laura’s benefits if he died first, it didn’t seem to phase him a bit. “She’ll have her own benefits,” he scoffed. His wife was not pleased.

Debbie, Paul and Laura got the lowdown on their social security benefits when they consulted with experts from SocialSecuritySolutions.com, a smart service that helps us decide how and when to file for social security so we get the best benefits possible.  Apparently, it’s a subject many of us would (sadly) fail, and our lack of knowledge could mean less money in our pockets every month.

This is especially relevant because half of women today, over 65, rely on social security income for a whopping 90 percent of their income, whether they’re married or not. While younger generations of women are working full time,  a substantial percent of older women never worked. What’s more, the average social security income in 2013 for women 65+ is $12,857, while it’s $16,590 for men, said Robin Brewton, vice president of client services at Social Security Solutions.  

Although representatives of the Social Security Administration aren’t supposed to give us advice on when to claim benefits, they often don’t even give us accurate basic information. As a matter of fact, when The Senate Special Committee on Aging commissioned a 2016 study on the performance of the SSA, covering subjects such as whether representatives were following their own policies and processes, and answering questions correctly, the results were so horrendous it never finished the study, Robin told FabOverFifty.  “When a 62-year-old woman came in to file for a spousal benefit, for example, she was incorrectly told that she couldn’t claim benefits until she was 66. That’s the kind of bad information constituents of the SSA were getting,” she explained.  

Social Security Solutions was launched in 2010 as an offshoot of a company called Retiree, Inc. which advises clients how to spend down their portfolios in retirement. “The software for that company included a section on social security claiming strategies, which we decided to spin out into its own software,”  explained Robin, who previously spent 25 years in human resources and senior leadership positions. “Social Security Solutions, however, grew quickly, which tells us how confused people are about their social security benefits,” she added.

How Social Security Solutions Works

The service is twofold: First, it’s a software program where you enter information such as your age, your spouse’s age, your marital status, how long you worked, and your earnings history, and then learn how to best file for benefits. The software also lets you compare strategies side by side to make a smart decision about the tradeoffs in filing earlier or later. What’s going to get you the highest monthly benefit? Cumulative benefits? Survivor benefits?

Second, you can take advantage of a professional consultation if you have questions about your claiming strategy or about social security in general.

How Much It Costs

The professional consultation, conducted by social security experts, lasts around 30 to 45 minutes and costs $125. It also includes a year of access to the Social Security Solutions software.

A $50 fee gives you total functionality of the software, and offers the maximum number of claiming strategies for you to make an informed decision about maximizing your benefits.

A $20 fee gives you a printed report with a recommended strategy that’s most likely to give you the best cumulative lifetime benefits.

Social Security is complicated. Believe it or not, there are over 2,500 rules and strategies to navigate, making it likely for you to leave money you’ve earned on the table. Get all the Social Security benefits you deserve.

Social Security Solutions is offering 10% off it’s already reasonable fees, just for the FabOverFifty community. Enter code FAB10 at checkout. It’s never too early to smarten up.

This post is sponsored by Social Security Solutions. FabOverFifty appreciates its mission to educate our community about this vital subject.