Chicken Salad and Social Security

Posted on by Diane Thompson Leave a comment

I was making chicken salad this week and it had for me a unique likeness to Social Security – you may be thinking I have lost my mind, but stay with me. Most everyone puts mayonnaise in their chicken salad, but the other ingredients are a mile long, depending on your favorite recipe. For me, I love almonds, green grapes, green onions, celery and many different spices.

This is the case with Social Security. Through our series of articles and seminars, we are trying to educate the public on the many options you actually have. We have been truly blessed with so many clients from our area, but I can’t help but think of those that think this is a joke or some kind of a scam. They are missing out on such a better income stream throughout retirement and aren’t willing to investigate the differences in benefit readily available to them for the asking.

Social Security is indeed very complicated. And it is interesting that people think the best they could possibly do is wait until 70….not true!! If you don’t implement one of the many claiming strategies available to everyone, you are going to short-change yourself on maximizing your retirement.

The formulas are complex… can’t come up with these options with pencil and paper. Sophisticated software is needed…..and on top of that, you have to know the rules and regulations to dig for further options that the software doesn’t consider. That is because life happens…..we take into consideration health issues, your desires, your monetary needs, and software cannot do that.

Back to the chicken salad…..some of these additional ingredients you may be missing is Restricted Application, File and Suspend, Retroactive benefits, Lump Sum Provision, and Deemed Filing just to name a few. Situations with Disability Benefits, Family Benefits, Widow Benefits, Divorced, WEP and GPO get much more involved and complex. This benefit is for the rest of your life….take it seriously.

Contact for more information; next seminar is September 29th at 6:00 p.m. at the Brandon library….seating is limited so call 601-954-0699 to reserve your seat.

Individually vs. Collectively

Posted on by Diane Thompson Leave a comment

It seems impossible that we have been writing these articles for over a year now. So many great comments and questions have come as a result. Diane will be hosting a seminar on June 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at the Brandon Library, for Ladies Only. The reason for this seminar is that we are seeing many widowed, divorced and single ladies that do not know how to handle their Social Security situation, and we felt a seminar was in order. “For Your Eyes Only” – please register at the Brandon Library as seating is limited.

One of the most important things that we hope our readers have learned is that the Social Security Administration can give you information, but they cannot give you advice. Each person’s Social Security benefit is based on their individual top 35 years of earnings. Just as a side note, you need to check this against your W-2 as mistakes are made and it will affect your Full Retirement Age benefit. If you don’t have your individual Social Security statement, you need to go online at, set up an account and print out your benefit statement.

For couples, to take these two benefit statements, and implement the claiming strategies that are available to you by law, will give you the greatest improvement in your lifetime income stream….hence, individually vs. collectively. We are not talking about a few dollars; the increase could be dramatic. There are over 2,728 rules and regulations that must be applied and this is not an easy task. Sophisticated software is necessary to provide you with the best result. And of great importance is the timing factor…..when you take your benefit, and when your spouse takes their benefit will greatly affect the outcome of your lifetime benefit. Through a customized report, we will show you 5-7 different ways to file, that will best suit your desires, take into consideration your health and the necessary income stream to maintain a good quality of life. There are also many different options for widowed, divorced and single individuals that can be explored. Without the necessary understanding of the rules and regulations, you are leaving yourself at risk of making a choice that may or may not be in your best interest. And remember, in most cases your decision is permanent.

People think if they both wait until 70 to take their benefit, this is best they could ever do….this is actually not true. You can still improve upon your position with the benefit of a claiming strategy such as File and Suspend or Restricted Application.

Comment we are proud of from Roy and Mary Callahan –“Roy and I couldn’t believe how complicated this Social Security stuff becomes when you try to plan for the future. We just kept putting it off for another day. No, it is not time for us to draw our Social Security anytime soon. Thanks to Pillars, LLC seminars and individual attention, we now have a plan for our future! We will get the most for both of us! Thank you Diane C. Thompson and Roy for taking care of this complicated system!”

Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and can be reached at 601-954-0699 or

Unless You Ask, You Won’t Receive

Posted on by Diane Thompson Leave a comment

Roy and I just returned from Florida where we presented several Social Security seminars. One of the things that continues to amaze us, are the number of people that have already claimed their benefits, are confused about their choices, and are not really sure why they did what they did. Considering the fact that Social Security, in most cases, is a permanent decision, you would think people would become more informed before making their choices.

Because you are ELIGIBLE for a benefit, does not mean that taking the benefit when eligible is a good decision for you, your family or your situation. Let me give you an example:

Susan’s husband dies quite unexpectedly at age 62 – Susan is 60. She is told by family that one of the first things she needs to do is go to the Social Security office and file for her Survivor Benefit. Yes, Susan is eligible, but…….if she is working she will experience Earning Limitations, she will take a reduction in her benefit amount for life (28.5%) and her benefit will be automatically eliminated. She may need the money, and that often happens. But, if she doesn’t there are strategies that can be utilized to help her through this process and greatly improve upon her income stream, for life.

People tend to forget that Social Security is a benefit that is based on your earnings history. The Social Security offices does not know to whom you are married, who you have divorced, whether your spouse or ex-spouse has died, whether you have young or disabled children, or whether or not you are taking care of dependent parents. So, if you don’t know the questions to ask, you are probably up the creek without a paddle.

Pillars, LLC, will develop a comprehensive review of your situation. Instead of analyzing your benefit individually, we analyze it collectively, looking at all the questions and variables that need to be answered. This is how you are able to maximize your benefit throughout retirement. On many occasions, we have actually written scripts for clients to take with them to the Social Security office for clarity of the situation. In our customized reports, included is a set of instructions for filing that you take with you to the Social Security office.

You have probably heard the saying “Know Before you Go”; this is so true when it comes to filing for your benefit. You may contact us at or call 601-954-0699 for assistance.

9 to 5

Posted on by Diane Thompson Leave a comment

Hopefully you now have your Social Security statement and have reviewed your 35 years of earnings. It is time to start looking at a start time for benefits……especially for couples, coordinating their start times will provide many opportunities to boost cumulative lifetime income. Before you do that, let’s discuss work and earnings limits while drawing Social Security.

What is considered work? Simply said, wages and self-employment (net) are considered work. Work is not money from rental properties, investments, IRA, 401K or deferred comp, stock option income, etc. Early-outs, severance pay and vacation pay-outs received AFTER you retire are normally NOT wages. If you work for wages, income counts when it is earned, not when it is paid. However, they do count an employee’s contribution to a pension or retirement plan if the contribution amount is included in the employee’s gross wages. If you are self-employed, income counts when you receive it as well – not when you earned it. An exception is if it is paid in a year after you become entitled to Social Security and you earned it before you became entitled to benefits.

Earning Limits

Younger than Full Retirement Age

$15,480 per year
$ 1,290 per month
Social Security benefits are withheld at $1 for
every $2 over the annual limit

The year you reach Full Retirement Age   

$41,400 per year
$3,450 per month
Social Security benefits are withheld at $1 for
every $3 over the annual limit



Also, please be aware that your spouse’s spousal benefit will also be withheld if you earn greater than the annual earnings test limit.  
In the year you reach full retirement age (66 for most of us reading this article) a more generous earnings limit applies.  Social Security will only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age and in 2014 that limit is $41,400.  Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, there is no limit on your earnings.

There is a huge difference between when you want to retire, and when a report or a free calculator tells you to retire.  We strive to work one-on-one with couples to determine the best choice for their life, based on their work situation, their health, family situations and such.  You can contact Roy or Diane Thompson, at 601-954-0699 or email us at or


Are We Ready? Am I Ready?

Posted on by Diane Thompson Leave a comment

Before you make that trip to the Social Security office, or file for your benefit online, please make sure you have researched all your choices and have answered the following questions:

  1. At what age should I file for benefits?
  2. At what age should my spouse file for benefits?
  3. By coordinating our decision, will we see a greater gain?
  4. When does it make sense to claim a spousal benefit?
  5. How can I claim my benefit, still work, and let my benefit grow?
  6. How do I make sure my spouse gets the largest survivor benefit?
  7. How do we know which of the filing methods might be right for us? Straight, Restricted or File and Suspend?
  8. If one of us lives a long life, how does that affect our decision?
  9. How will work affect my benefit?
  10. If I am divorced, having been married 10 years and currently single, what are my options?
  11. If I have a government pension, how will that affect when I file and how will it affect the survivor benefit?
  12. What about any tax consequences?These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered, but a great place to start.  Unfortunately, most people don’t have many of these questions answered, yet decide to file for their benefit.  Why?  Usually, because they don’t know where to get their answers and it is overwhelming.We are not pointing fingers, because we were right where you are when looking at our retirement decisions.  We are not ready to retire yet, but close, and wanted to get our ducks all in a row.  We went to advisors, seminars, to the Social Security office and still felt we didn’t know much more than when we started.  That is when we became National Social Security Advisors, taking on those 2,700 rules and regulations and trying to advise people getting close to retirement.

    Hopefully through reading some of our articles, and understanding the need for a customized report, our community is realizing the need for more in depth research on this topic before making their decision.  If interested, we are hosting a seminar at the Brandon Public Library on September 29, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. titled “What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You”.  It should last about an hour with additional time for questions and answers.  Please join us and see if we can clear up some of that muddy water…

    We are pleased to announce that our website is up and complete.  Please take a minute to look at it and we would welcome any comments or suggestions.  See you at the Library…..or call us for an appointment at 601-954-0699.

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