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By Paul S. Franklin, EJD CPA, Academic Department Chair Published February 2014
Two of the most frequently asked questions concerning Social
Security benefits are: “Will Social Security be available when I reach
retirement age?” and “When should I apply for my benefits?” Let’s address these
questions one at a time.
“Will Social Security be available
when I reach retirement age?”
I am not
sure if anyone truly has an answer to that question, but my bet is that Social
Security will not be going away anytime in the foreseeable future. Let’s look
at its history. The Social Security Administration began collecting taxes in
1937; the maximum taxable earnings were $3,000. This threshold has been increased
by Congress over the years, and in 2014 the threshold amount is $117,000. The
Social Security Administration suggests that the laws governing Social Security
will be changed; based on current legislation the payroll taxes collected will
only pay approximately 77 percent of the scheduled benefits by the year 2033. Since
1937 the threshold or maximum taxable earnings have been raised many times through
legislative action. The threshold has been increased on a yearly basis since
1971. The percentage increase from 2013 to 2014 was 2.9 percent and benefits
increased only 1.5 percent. Should this trend continue, it is likely that funding
will continue to be available to eligible recipients for many years beyond
“When should I apply for my benefits?”
look at the second question. Under current law a worker is first eligible for
Social Security benefits at age 62 but their benefit will be reduced by a
certain percentage. As an example, if you were born in 1952 and opted to begin
receiving benefits in 2014, your benefit would be 75 percent of your full
retirement benefit. If you should delay receiving benefits beyond age 66, your
benefit will increase 8 percent per year until you reach age 70. Another
important consideration is your desire to continue to work. If you wait until
age 70 to begin receiving your benefits, your Social Security will not be exempt
from income taxes. If you decide to begin receiving benefits and continue to have employment income, and the income exceeds a certain threshold, your benefit payments are taxable. If you are in a 25 percent tax bracket and
your benefit is $1,500 monthly or $18,000 per year, your federal income tax on
those benefits will be approximately $3,825. The taxing of your benefit can
substantially reduce your overall income stream.
Finally, you should remember that Social Security is designed
to supplement your retirement income, not replace your salary or wages. You
should request a Social Security Statement by going to www.socialsecurity.gov and track your estimated benefits and plan accordingly.
Paul S. Franklin is a full-time Department Chair at Kaplan University. The views
expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent
the view of Kaplan University.
By Cynthia Waddell, PhD, CPA, CFE
By Jerry Taylor
By Geoffrey Vanderpal
By Dr. Denise Schoenherr
By Stanley W. Self, CFE
By Rachel Byers, Full-Time Faculty, School of Business
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Maylee talks about her experiences with Kaplan Financial Education and preparing for her exams.
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