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Beyond the Numbers    Financial Advisor eNewsletter

Clients need Help to Navigate Social Security 

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Seven in ten pre-retirees incorrectly believe they will be eligible for full Social Security benefits at age 63, and 26% incorrectly believe their benefits will increase when they reach full retirement age, according to a new national survey of 1,315 U.S. adults ages 50+.1


Social Security, for many, is one of the most important and reliable retirement income sources, yet it can be complex and confusing even for some of the most financially savvy pre-retirees and retirees. The national survey revealed that pre-retirees on average overestimate Social Security benefits by 28%, expecting to receive $1,805 a month (versus the actual $1,408 average monthly payout among today’s retirees). And, fewer than one in ten are able to identify all four factors that determine level of benefits: work history, birth year, marital status, and age at which a retiree begins receiving benefits.


Adding to the complication are myriad other factors that impact Social Security. For example, until you reach full retirement age, working while receiving early retirement benefits may reduce your Social Security retirement benefits.

Taking Social Security before full retirement age can incur a significant financial penalty. But those who take Social Security early often do so because of unexpected hardship, such as loss of a job (26%) or health issues (22%). And so, even if you expect to take Social Security at full retirement age, it may be prudent to prepare for scenarios where you are forced to receive reduced Social Security income.

Age to receive Full Social Security Benefits

Source: Social Security Administration

Please input your year of birth.

According to the study, 44% of pre-retirees say Social Security will be their main source of retirement income. But two-thirds (66%) worry that Social Security will run out of funding in their lifetime.

Preparing for retirement holistically, considering multiple retirement income sources, can help pre-retirees and retirees maximize benefits and manage their income effectively during different stages of their retirement. Achieving clarity on how best to navigate the choices and trade-offs of Social Security can be one of the important first steps.


1. The Nationwide Retirement Institute Consumer Social Security PR Study, March 2019

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