Good news for retirees: Social Security benefits are scheduled to increase 2.8 percent in 2019, the biggest bump since the 3.6 percent increase in 2012. The average beneficiary – who received about $1,405 a month in 2018 – can expect to see just over $39 more each month, or about $468 more over the course of the year.1
Such cost of living increases are meant to cover household expenses that rise due to inflation. However, if you can absorb those additional costs, you could think about redirecting that additional payout toward helping to meet your long-term financial goals. For example, an emergency savings account or a life insurance policy designed to pay for funeral expenses. If you would like help with this, please give us a call.
There are a few more updates to Social Security for 2019. For one, the supplemental benefit paid to those who are blind or disabled will increase to $771 from $750 per individual; to $1,157 from $1,125 for couples. Second, if you’re currently working while receiving benefits, you can earn a bit more before those benefits are reduced. Moving forward, you may now earn up to $17,640 before $1 is deducted for every $2 you earn. In the year before you turn your full retirement age, you may earn up to $46,920 before $1 is deducted for every $3 you earn until the month you reach your full retirement age. And third, for those who are still working and have not yet started receiving benefits, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax will increase to $132,900 from $128,400.2
Some advocate eliminating the earnings cap to keep Social Security solvent in the future. That’s because the brunt of taxes dedicated to Social Security comes from lower-income earners, while high earners avoid this tax on earnings above $132,900. In fact, due to the increase in income disparity in the United States, a much higher level of earned income is now exempted from this payroll tax compared to the 1980s – $300 billion in 1983 versus $1.2 trillion in 2016.3
Other changes in addition to eliminating the taxable income cap have also been proposed. One option, which could benefit both the Social Security fund as a whole and individual retirees, is encouraging retirees to delay claiming Social Security benefits. For every year delayed, one’s benefits increase 8 percent. Those who wait to take the benefit until age 67 receive about 43 percent more a month; those who wait until age 70 receive about 75 percent more in lifetime monthly benefits.4
Social Security benefits – both funding and payouts – can be complex. It is worthwhile to stay abreast of the policies, changes and strategies that can help maximize benefits. For additional information, try out this quiz – which also gives a detailed explanation of the correct answers to help you become better educated about Social Security.5
1 John Wasik. Forbes. Nov. 2, 2018. “5 Things You Should Know About Social Security Changes.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2018/11/02/5-things-you-should-know-about-social-security-changes/. Accessed Nov. 9, 2018.
3 Sean Williams. USA Today. Nov. 9, 2018. “Why the Social Security program will never run out of cash.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/11/09/when-does-social-security-run-out/38452267/. Accessed Nov. 9, 2018.
4 Knowledge@Wharton. Oct. 3, 2018. “Delaying Social Security: How Lump Sum Payments Can Help.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/delay-social-security/. Accessed Nov. 8, 2018.
5 Matthew Frankel. USA Today. June 2, 2018. “47% of American pre-retirees failed this basic Social Security quiz. Can you pass it?” https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/retirement/2018/06/02/pre-retirees-failed-basic-social-security-quiz/35343701/. Accessed Nov. 9, 2018.
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