`Social Security: More Than Meets the Eye’ Comes March 15 to River Forest Public Library
Financial Planner Gives Tips to Plan For, Navigate Process
Type “social security” into Google and more than 1.3 billion entries materialize in one-sixth of a second. That’s not an attempt at humorous hyperbole—it’s literally what you find on the search engine titan.
So wading through all the latest data and regulations, then weeding out the helpful from the harmful, is a daunting prospect.
To boil down this information overload—and help people gauge where their unique circumstances fit into the Social Security picture—retirement expert Jim Flanagan is holding a free educational session at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15 at River Forest Public Library, 735 Lathrop Ave.
The session is for those who have not yet begun receiving Social
Security benefits. Whether you are 10 years shy of eligibility or are eligible already and mulling when to begin the process, the interactive meeting will span a range of relevant issues.
Among other topics, Flanagan will cover the pros and cons of when to begin taking benefits; the impact of working while getting benefits; taxation implications; and spousal/widow benefits.
The founder of Bentron Financial Group, Flanagan has been advising people at or near retirement age for more than 20 years. For the past dozen years his specialties have included counsel on how and when to tap into Social Security benefits.
One of the biggest reasons for the session, said Flanagan, is to correct flawed counsel that has permeated the industry for years: “The thinking used to be, `Who knows how long you’re going to live? Get the money as quick as you can,’” Flanagan noted.
But that strategy flies in the face of the population’s increasing longevity. Flanagan said people in their 60s should anticipate living another 30 years.
“People are living so much longer than they ever have before,” said Flanagan. “And unlike your investment accounts, your social security check stays the same or goes up over time. It’s a check that you can never outlive and it’s vital that you look hard at your best strategy to get the biggest check for the longest period of time.”
Currently, the earliest age you can collect Social Security is 62. However, your benefit is reduced by 30 percent if you begin taking Social Security that early—and by the time you are 72 to 75, the advantage of early benefits has evaporated.
The normal age for beginning to receive benefits is 67 and the latest you can defer is 70. A typical monthly Social Security check is now climbing toward $1,500, though there is nothing typical about any given individual, Flanagan emphasized.
“These blanket strategies for approaching Social Security simply don’t work,” he said. “Everyone’s situation is so unique and specific.”
For example, Flanagan recently was in contact with a woman approaching 60 years of age who was being laid off from her job and mentioned that she had a husband who died many years ago.
Because she had been married for at least 10 years and had never re-married, at 60 she would be eligible to begin collecting a spousal benefit of nearly $1,500 per month for the rest of her life, Flanagan informed her. In addition, that benefit would not affect Social Security benefits related to her own work history.
“It was a life-changing experience for her,” Flanagan said. “The pressure was off on her finding a new job. You have to shake the old thoughts out of your mind regarding Social Security and get advice from somebody who understands how the system works.”
And to anyone who is skeptical that Social Security will remain intact in the coming years, Flanagan has a firm message: “I believe strongly that Social Security will be around for future generations. We need to believe that and we need to demand that.”
To register for the session, please call Flanagan at 630-505-8375.
Bentron Financial Group is online at www.bentron.com.
About Jim Flanagan
In 2005, Flanagan joined the Oak Park/River Forest Township Senior Services Committee, for which he has served as chairman since 2008. In 2010, he founded the Celebrating Seniors Coalition, a not-for-profit organization that, among other services, helps seniors with emergency needs and raises public awareness of issues affecting seniors in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.
For more information, visit www.CelebratingSeniors.net.