How Long Will You Live? Lifespan Calculator Gives Possible Answer

Whenever we sit down with clients to plan for their retirement, it’s always interesting finding out their answer to a simple question: “How long do you expect to live?”

Clearly none of us knows the future, but the predicted answer to this simple question carries a lot of weight. That’s because a critical aspect of retirement planning is making certain you don’t outlive your resources – something that happens to far too many seniors who fail to plan for a longer-than-expected life span. After all, if you expect to live to age 80 – and spend your money with that in mind – what will you do if you end up living to be 90? It happens more than you think, forcing seniors into decisions they never wanted to make.

For a fun (and eye-opening) exercise, spend a few minutes online with the Lifespan Calculator.  This simple tool asks several key questions about your family history, your diet and exercise habits, and your present health. It’s completely confidential – you don’t enter your name or any other identifying information. In less than five minutes you’ll discover your likely longevity.

Of course, while the calculator is predictive, it’s not 100% scientific. As we said, no one knows the future. But careful planning requires that we think ahead ten, twenty or thirty years, and do our best to lay plans in place today for a more secure tomorrow. Planning ahead has been the hallmark of the wise throughout the ages. The Old Testament book of Psalms, for example, contains these words: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

We encourage you to use the Lifespan Calculator as both a fun and a sobering exercise. If nothing else it will remind you to take seriously the need to plan carefully for your future as you age. Here at Aging Options, our approach to planning encompasses five key areas of concern: your finances, your health, your legal affairs, your housing decisions and the relationships with those closest to you. It is possible to put a plan in place that takes all of these into consideration so that, no matter how long you live, you can enjoy the kind of fruitful life you have desired for yourself in your retirement years.

The place to begin is by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars. We conduct these information sessions frequently at locations throughout the region. You’ll gain valuable insight into the entire retirement planning process. Click on the Upcoming Events tab for dates and times. We’ll look forward to meeting you at a LifePlanning Seminar soon!

Q & A with SSA

By Kirk Larson Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Question: My wife didn’t work enough to earn 40 credits to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. Can she qualify on my record?

Answer: Even if your spouse has never worked under Social Security, she can, at full retirement age, receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. Your wife is eligible for reduced spouse’s benefits as early as age 62, as long as you are already receiving benefits. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retire.

Question: Do I have to give my Social Security number whenever I’m asked?

Answer: Giving your Social Security number is voluntary. If requested, you should ask why the person asking needs your Social Security number, how it will be used, what law requires you to give your number, and what the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide whether to give your Social Security number. However, the decision is yours. Keep in mind that requestors might not provide you their services if you refuse to provide your Social Security number. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs to read or print our publication, Your Social Security Number And Card.

Question: What is the earliest age I can begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits?

Answer: The earliest age you can begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits is age 62. If you decide to receive benefits before your full retirement age, which for most people is age 66 or 67, you will receive a reduced benefit. Keep in mind you will not be able to receive Medicare coverage until age 65, even if you decide to retire at an earlier age. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/retire.

Question: I lost my Medicare card. How can I get replacement?

Answer: The easiest and newest way to get a replacement Medicare card is by using your my Social Security account. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount for more information on how to create an account. You also can get a replacement Medicare card by calling us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). Keep your card in a safe place. You don’t want anyone getting hold of your Social Security number. They could steal your identity.

A reverse mortgage can provide extra income when the death of a spouse leaves you financially strapped

By Tamara Sevigny of Kiel Mortgage

Maria was in the midst of a crisis. Her husband passed away suddenly, leaving her with no life insurance. Maria’s income dramatically changed. The passing of her husband left her with just her Survivor’s benefit from Social Security. However, their home was paid in full. Her Pastor suggested she contact a local mortgage company to see if a reverse mortgage might be a useful answer to her financial questions.

A Reverse Mortgage Specialist provided Maria a line of credit to help supplement her immediate and future needs. The funds from the reverse mortgage allowed Maria to pay for all of the unexpected final expenses for her husband and allowed her to draw supplemental income to add to her Social Security benefits. Maria felt really relieved to have a solution in the midst of such a sad time in her life.

Laura Kiel, along with her husband Dan, co-founded Kiel Mortgage, Inc in 1996. Laura served as a Commissioner on the Washington State Mortgage Broker Commission from Jan 2004-Dec 2007. As a part of this Commission, she was crucial in developing new and sweeping consumer protection legislation and mortgage regulation. Her work was instrumental in re-writing the Mortgage Brokers Practices Act which enacted Loan Originator licensing for the state of Washington in 2007.

Laura Kiel will be on with Rajiv Nagaich this Saturday.  Get answers to your reverse mortgage questions by calling 877-76-AGING (762-4464) or listen to the podcast after the show.

Social Security turns 80 this year

By Kirk Larson Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Think you’re getting old, Social Security Turns 80

Eighty years ago, on August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

As the face of America has evolved over the course of the last eight decades, so has Social.  Social Security has expanded its safety net to provide benefits for retirees, people with disabilities and chronically ill, spouses and children of deceased workers. The agency has evolved to serve the needs of a changing America. Now, we are celebrating this historic anniversary by looking at both our successful past, and the path to an even brighter future.

Social Security is there for you during all stages of life. Right from the beginning, we issue a unique Social Security number to most newborns when an application is taken at the hospital. This allows us to track your income over your working career and accurately calculate your retirement benefit. We provide disability benefits to injured and chronically ill workers and their families. We provide survivors benefits to widows, widowers, and the minors of deceased workers. We also provide Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to those with low income and resources, and Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs for people who qualify.

In our decades of experience, Social Security has evolved to meet the fast-paced demands of the digital world. Creating an online my Social Security account, allows you to view your Social Security Statement, verify the accuracy of your earnings record, and get estimates of your future monthly benefit. Once you begin receiving Social Security benefits, you can use your online account to manage your record.  You can change your address and phone number, check your benefit information, update your electronic payment method or obtain an instant benefit verification letter or replacement Medicare card. If you haven’t already, you can easily sign up for a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Our safe and secure online services allow you to apply for retirement, spouse’s, Medicare, and disability benefits from the comfort of your home. You can quickly complete an online retirement application at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

We look to the next 80 years with a renewed commitment to proudly serving Social Security customers throughout their lifetime, when and where they need us. See how Social Security has evolved over the years at www.socialsecurity.gov/history.

Report for duty by reporting fraud

By Kirk Larson Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Social Security takes preventing and combatting fraud as seriously as we take our other vital missions.

Social Security has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. In tandem with local law enforcement, we pursue criminals who cheat the system by collecting benefits that they’re not owed. Fraud might take the form of someone claiming to be disabled when, in reality, they continue to work. That is why we rely on you—the American public—to report fraud when you see it. Remember, they are not stealing from the Government, they are stealing from YOU.

While we can’t prevent every instance of fraud any more than the most effective law enforcement agency can prevent all crime, we aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of those who try to cheat and steal from the system. Our message to those who would defraud Social Security is clear: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore the money you’ve stolen from the American people.

We impose stiff penalties to discourage people from committing fraud. We monitor cases closely, and we have sophisticated tools to help us predict where and when fraud may occur so we can catch it early — often even before it happens.

Social Security employs innovative weapons in the fight against fraud. Our Office of Anti-Fraud Programs (OAFP) is the newest member of Social Security’s anti-fraud team. Established in November 2014, the mission of OAFP is to coordinate all the agency’s efforts to efficiently and effectively detect, deter, and mitigate fraud, waste, and abuse of our programs. OAFP works closely with our Office of the Inspector General to ensure that there are consequences for those who commit fraud — even if the act isn’t prosecuted.

Social Security takes fraud seriously, and so should you. In the same way that you might keep a keen eye out for suspicious activity that might harm our nation, we encourage you to keep an eye out for potential Social Security fraud. Some of our most vulnerable citizens — the elderly, disabled children and war veterans, as well as the chronically ill—are counting on you. If you suspect someone is committing Social Security fraud, report it online at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

Men’s health and Social Security

By Kirk Larson Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Each year we observe Men’s Health Week the week prior to Father’s Day by focusing on awareness, prevention, education and family.

Make sure the men in your life aren’t the catch of the day when a criminal offers alluring bait. Social Security will not call or email you for personal information such as your Social Security number or banking information. If someone claiming to be from Social Security contacts you and asks for this information, do not give out your personal information without calling us to verify the validity of the request. The caller may be an identity thief phishing for your personal information. Just call the local Social Security office or Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If you receive a suspicious call, please report it to our Fraud Hotline. You can also report such calls online at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or by telephone at 1-800-269-0271 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. If possible, please include the following details:

• The alleged suspect(s) and victim(s) names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, if known; • Description of the fraud and the location where the fraud took place; • When and how the fraud was committed; • Why the person committed the fraud (if known); and • Who else has knowledge of the potential violation.

Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of an identity thief, the place to contact is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.idtheft.gov. Or, call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Make sure no one falls victim to phishing scams. Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Public Affairs Specialists Kirk Larson and Kate Pesin from the Social Security Administration will join AgingOptions on the radio June 13. Be sure to tune in and ask them your Social Security questions.

Zombify Your Social Security, and Other Quirks

By Andy Landis Thinking Retirement

Social Security has a number of off-beat “quirks.” Here are the top ten, including how to turn your payments into zombies.

Quirk #10. Your birthday isn’t your birthday. Federal law says you “attain” any age the day before your birthday. So if you’re aiming for a critical birthday—like 62 for Social Security or 65 for Medicare—you actually reach that age a day early.

Quirk #9. Your birth month isn’t your birth month. Social Security says that you must be eligible “throughout a month” to receive payment.  For example, if you want to collect Social Security at 62 and you have a June 15 birthday, you’re eligible in July, the first month you’re 62 throughout the month.

If your birthday is on the first of the month, you’d attain your age the day before (Quirk # 10), and be eligible throughout your birth month.

Born on January 1? Then your birth year would be changed.

Note: Medicare is different. You’re eligible for Medicare on the first of the month you attain age 65. That would be your birth month for most, or the preceding month if your birthday is on the first.

Quirk #8. Your payment month isn’t your payment month. Social Security payments are “for” the previous month. So if your birthday is on June 15, your eligibility month is July, and your payment will come in August.

Quirk #7. Your death month isn’t your death month. You must be eligible “throughout a month” to be paid (Quirk #9). For a mid-month death, the next Social Security payment must be returned. For example, if death occurs on July 15, the July check—paid in August, under Quirk #8—must be returned to SSA.

Quirk #6. Your Full Retirement Age isn’t the same as everyone else’s. Social Security’s “Full Retirement Age” (FRA) is moving from 65 to 67. New FRAs are being phased in over many years, based on your birth year. Find yours HERE.

If your birthday is January 1, your birth year is the previous year. (Quirk #9). The earlier birth year determines your FRA.

Quirk #5. Your FRA might not be your FRA. If you have lost a spouse, the FRA chart for widow(ers) is slightly different from the FRA chart for retirees. Therefore you might have two different FRAs: one for survivor benefits, one for retirement benefits.

Quirk #4. Your ex-spouse might not be your ex-spouse. SSA pays former spouse benefits if you were married at least 10 years before divorce. If you divorced just before your tenth anniversary, SSA can’t recognize your former spouse.

Quirk #3. A stranger could be boosting your future Social Security. If someone accidentally or intentionally works under your Social Security Number, all their earnings go to your record, increasing your future payments. Correct that by contacting SSA. Really.

Quirk #2. SSA tells you not to photocopy your documents, then they do it. SSA won’t accept photocopies you make of documents like birth certificates. They need the official “certified” copy with an authentic stamp or seal. But when you provide the official copy, SSA photocopies it for your file. (You get your original back). Is that hypocritical? No, the SSA employee certifies that the photocopy is a true copy of the official document. That’s different from home-made photocopies that could be, well, questionable.

Quirk #1. Turn your payments into “zombies.” From FRA to age 70 you can voluntarily suspend your retirement payments for any month. Then your record is like a zombie: alive (active on the computer) but dead (not paying anything). Since it’s alive your qualified spouse can get a spousal payment. But since it’s dead your payments get higher until re-animated (resumed). For more quirks about voluntary suspension, see HERE  and HERE.

This is offered to help you plan your Social Security, not to bad-mouth SSA. Knowing SSA’s quirks will pave the way.

All these quirks and more are detailed in MY BOOK. Always consult SSA for official information. And as always, keep on planning.

Different benefits for your family’s different situations

By Kirk Larson Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist

National Family Month takes place each year from Mother’s Day in May to Father’s Day in June, and coincides with the end of the school year when families are able to spend even more time together. It is the perfect time to spend more time focusing on each member of your family.

Social Security has your entire family in mind when it comes to coverage and benefits. We’re here to help everyone in the family— during every stage of life.

Most people think of retirement benefits when they think about Social Security, and that certainly is a big part of what we do. In fact, most of the benefits we pay go to retirees and their families—about 41 million people. However, Social Security is more than retirement. Just read on.

If you work and pay Social Security taxes during your lifetime, you can look forward to a strong foundation of income in retirement from Social Security. Of course, Social Security was never intended to be your sole source of retirement income. You build with pensions, savings, and other income upon a foundation.

Nevertheless, what if you become disabled before you retire and you are unable to continue working to support your family? Social Security has you covered with disability benefits. If you have a disability that is expected to last a year or longer, or result in death, you should apply for disability benefits.

Your work and taxes cover not only you, but your entire family, too. Family benefits can include retirement, disability and, in the event of your death, survivors benefits. This coverage includes everyone in your family who depends on you for support, such as your minor children who are under age 18, or age 19 if still in secondary school, as well as your spouse. It also can include older children who have severe disabilities that began before age 22. In some cases, parents and grandchildren can qualify for family benefits if they depend on your income and you are their only means of support

If you want to learn more about how Social Security benefits the younger members of your family, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/youngpeople. This page has information for you even if you don’t have children and are a young worker yourself.

Therefore, whether through survivors, disability, or retirement benefits, Social Security is here to help you and your entire family when the need arises.

And the best way to apply for benefits is online at www.socialsecurity.gov. Perhaps another popular family member—the family pet—can best explain why applying online is the best option for you. Check out our creative videos on our YouTube channel for sound advice from the four-legged members of the family. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov and select the YouTube button at the bottom of the page.

Want to learn more? Read or listen to the publication, Understanding the Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Get My Ex’s Social Security?

By Andy Landis Thinking Retirement

Divorced?  You might qualify for Social Security payments from your ex—and take a “Dualie Detour” to maximize your own payments If you’re confused about Social Security rules for divorced individuals, you’re not alone.  Let’s clear up the muddle and discover some ways to work the rules to your advantage.

I’m divorced and don’t have a ten-year work history.  Can I get Social Security?

Probably.  You can get Social Security “former spouse payments” http://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html if the following requirements are met:

  • You must be age 62 or over
  • Your former spouse must be at least 62, and have enough work to qualify for Social Security (but not necessarily getting payments, if you’ve been divorced for two years)
  • Your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years before divorce
  • You must be currently unmarried (but you may have intervening marriages, now ended)
  • If you are under Full Retirement Age (FRA, currently 66), your spousal payment will be reduced and your current work must be limited.

Whew!  That’s a lot of requirements.  But if you qualify, you will receive monthly payments of 35 percent to 50 percent of your ex’s Social Security, and you’ll get Medicare at 65.

I’m divorced and have my own ten-year work history.  Can ex-spousal payments help me?

If your ex-spouse also has a ten-year work history, you’re what I call a “dualie.”  That means you’re dually-eligible for Social Security, as a worker and as a former spouse.

That clears the road to the “Dualie Detour.”  Wait until your FRA to file for Social Security, and then file only for the ex-spousal payment.  Hold your own Social Security in reserve.  At age 70, get a raise by filing for your own Social Security—by then it has reached its maximum, 132 percent of your age-66 payment.  Of course this pathway assumes that your own payment at 70 is greater than the spousal payment.  The Detour won’t work if you file for Social Security before FRA, so be patient.

I want to remarry.

While you are married you cannot get Social Security from your ex-spouse.  (But see the exception below if your ex-spouse is deceased.)

My ex passed away.  How does that change things?

SSA calls you a “surviving divorced spouse.”    Survivor payments are different in four ways:

  • Reduced payments are available as early as 60 (or 50 if you’re disabled).
  • You can get up to 100 percent of your ex-spouse’s Social Security, not the 50 percent payable from a living ex-spouse.  (Please don’t think of this as an incentive…!)
  • You can remarry and still receive survivor payments, as long as your remarriage was after age 60.
  • The Dualie Detour opens earlier.  You can take one payment before FRA, and still maximize the other one (the survivor payment maximizes at FRA; your own Social Security maximizes at 70).

 

How can I learn more?

Check the SSA websites on divorced spouses or surviving divorced spouses.   My book is a good resource with lots of examples.  Be sure to consult with SSA before committing to any pathway.

And as always, keep on planning.

Find security with a solid retirement plan

By Kirk Larson Social Security Western Washington Public Affairs Specialist

Achieving financial independence is key to enjoying a satisfying retirement. Social Security has many tools to help you plan for your future.

Prepare for a secure, comfortable retirement by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Once there, open a secure my Social Security account and assess your financial needs. You’ll get immediate access to your personal Social Security Statement, your earnings record, and an estimate of your retirement benefits at age 62, at your full retirement age, and at age 70. You can also ensure your earnings are correct, since your future benefits are based on your earnings record.

Choosing when to retire is an important decision. At our Retirement Estimator, which you can find at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator, you can get an estimate of your future benefit amount. You can use “what if” scenarios to see how your benefit amounts will change with different retirement dates and future earnings estimates.

Also, visit www.myra.gov to check out myRA, a new retirement savings option from the Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement. myRA is a simple, secure, and affordable way to help you take control of your future.

Once you are ready to retire, apply at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire. Our online retirement application is the easiest and fastest way to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. It can take you as little as 15 minutes to complete. There are no forms to sign, and usually no documentation is required. Additionally, you can apply online from the convenience of your home. Learn more about Social Security retirement benefits by reading our publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

With all of these resources in place, you too can prepare to reap the joys of a financially secure retirement. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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