Start 2020 Thinking About Social Security Issues and Options

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The month of December for most of us is immersed in celebrations, pageant’s, football, parades, writing and mailing Christmas cards, decorating, cooking, parties and family.  We are all over the top BUSY – BUSY and actually anticipate the colder, slower month of January to simply re-load.  Don’t get me wrong, we all love Christmas and the meaning behind that special day, but we just over commit.  Take lots of pictures as these memories fly by in a brief moment!

Having said that, January is also the month most folks start pulling out their tax receipts, 1099’s, W-2’s and other year-end compilations.  This is a good thing as April 15th quickly roars its head.  If nearing retirement, may we also encourage you to look at your Social Security statements?  First of all, your Earnings History must be accurate as these numbers affect your PIA (primary insurance amount) for life. Also, the numbers presented on this statement are not your only options.  Timing, flexibility, and the application of rules that apply to your situation could change your benefit amount.  

Whether married, divorced, single, disabled or widowed, this message is for you.  There are different rules for each situation, and people are in different categories based on their ages.  Combining these differences is complicated, but a welcome challenge if this is your area of expertise.  WHY – because in most cases, there is a better choice which equals improved cash flow.

Check for errors in your Social Security statements – in 2016 alone, the SSA processed 92,000 complaints about mistakes found in statements.  Remember, that your benefit amount is based on your top 35 years of inflation-adjusted earnings, so if these numbers are wrong, your benefit amount will not be accurate.

When you file for your Social Security benefit, that decision has potential repercussions for your spouse as well, not only while you are living, but for your spouse’s Survivor benefit.  Your benefit filing also has repercussions that include family members qualified to share in your benefits.  Your benefits should be reviewed collectively, not individually – this is our area of expertise.  Remember that when one of you dies, only one check remains.  If by simply planning you can improve this amount for the rest of your spouse’s life, why would you not do this?  The answer to this question is simple – a lack of knowledge regarding the rules and regulations that apply to Social Security benefits. 

People who were born after January 1, 1954, will be “deemed” to apply for any available benefits when they file for Social Security and will be paid the higher of the two amounts.  But, “deemed filing” does not apply to Survivor Benefits.  This is a HUGE missed opportunity if not filed for at the right time.  TIMING is critical in all Social Security decisions.

Social Security benefits for divorced spouses remains a fertile area where strategic claiming strategies can make a big difference in retirement benefit planning and future income for these spouses – not just women, men as well.

In agreement with the Social Security laws, there are Spousal Benefits, Family Benefits, Divorced Benefits, and Survivor Benefits, all not included on your annual Social Security statement.  If you don’t know the questions to ask, how do you expect to get the answers you need or the benefit you deserve?

Do yourself a favor next year and make this one of your priorities.  You take your taxes to a professional and you get a better end result – do the same with your Social Security benefit – it is for the rest of your life.  

Pillars LLC is in the Corinth, MS area but service all 50 states.  Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a former CPA of over 40 years.  You may contact them at, on their website at or call at 601-954-0699.  KNOW before you GO!!

Survivor Benefits – Ouch

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One of the areas we work the hardest for our clients is in the area of Survivor Benefits.  People do not realize that with the proper advice and calculation, that the Survivor Benefit can be improved in most cases by quite a bit.  Remember, in a married couple, when one of you dies, only one check remains – the higher of the two and this will be your benefit for the rest of your life.

Retirement comes with PLANNING – you should not wait until the year before you leave your career to start this process.  Not only do you have to review Medicare options, 401K’s and other assets, but your Social Security benefit.  We preferably like to see our clients about two years before retirement to start the process.  You see, Social Security is really the cornerstone of most people’s retirement plan.  And to take at face value, what you see on your Social Security statement, can be a great loss of revenue to you and your family.

The Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) just recently reported that more than 100,000 widows and widowers were underpaid on their benefits.  The objective of this report “was to determine whether the Social Security Administration had adequte controls to establish a correct initial month of entitlement for widower’s benefits”.  As it turns out, it does not.

This is so discerning, because had these individuals had their benefits analyzed prior to filing, this would never have been the case.

When someone dies, people are told by a friend or loved one that one of the first things they need to do is file for that Survivor Benefit.  This may or may not be the appropriate plan of action or in their best interest financially.  Here is a partial listing of some of the issues that can arise with Survivor Benefits:

  1. If working and under Full Retirement Age, you are immediately hit with the Earnings Limitations rule, which limits your income to $16,920 per year (2017).  For ever $2 you earn over this limit, $1 will be withheld from your check.  In otherwords, you may not see one plug nickel of your benefit.  And, we have seen this happen one too many times.
  2. The law changes of November 2, 2015 did not affect Survivor Benefits.  Therefore, you have options, depending on when you file, to improve your lifetime income stream. If you file for the wrong benefit first, you are shortchanging these options.  
  3. If you draw this benefit at age 60 when first available, or 50 if disabled, it will be immediately reduced by 28.5%.  This is a huge reduction when you factor it through life expectancy.
  4. Usually there are life insurance proceeds that can be used prior to tapping into Social Security benefits.

We see many unintentionalmistakes in this area that are costly to the beneficiary – if you know of someone that is recently widowed, please have them call before they file.  They need to know all options along with the proper month of entitlement before fiing.

Remember,  Social Security is a lifetime annuity,  is inflation protected, and has the right of survivorship.  Call us at Pillars, LLC,  601-954-0699 to order your customized report.   Or your can email us at or for more information.  Our website is

What Do You Really Know About Social Security Laws?

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Roy and I have found with talking to people each day, even the most basic knowledge about Social Security is not understood. With all the articles on the internet, some good and some bad, people are just confused and basically give up educating themselves. They drive to the Social Security office and just take what they are given. This does not have to be the case. Remember, the Social Security office will give you information on your benefit only…..not advice on how to file collectively and improve your income position.

In this article, we are going to define some of the more elementary terms related to Social Security:

  1. Cumulative Benefits – lifetime payout of Social Security benefits.
  2. Delayed Retirement Credits – 8% increase in your benefit amount per year, for every year you wait to file after your Full Retirement Age. This is actually calculated monthly, so you do not have to wait an entire year.
  3. Delayed Strategy – claiming benefits after Full Retirement Age (FRA) in order to receive increased benefits.
  4. Divorced Benefits – benefits paid to the divorced spouse of an eligible worker to whom you were married at least 10 years – must comply with the new law changes effective November 2, 2015.
  5. Earnings Record – the history of your earnings for the years you have worked during your lifetime.
  6. Earnings Test – the reduction in benefit taken if you continue to work while receiving benefits before you reach Full Retirement Age (FRA). Once you reach FRA, the earnings test no longer applies, and there is no limit on your income. The year your turn FRA, the Earnings Limitations amount is substantially higher.
  7. Primary Insurance Amount – (PIA) is the benefit you will receive at your FRA.
  8. Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – a provision that may reduce Social Security benefits based on your earnings history if you are eligible to receive a pension from work not covered by Social Security taxes.
  9. Survivor Benefits – benefits paid to the surviving spouse of a deceased eligible worker.
  10. File and Suspend – a Social Security policy allowing a worker to file an application for retirement benefits but immediately suspend payments. This makes the worker’s spouse eligible to file for and receive spousal benefits. This also allows the worker’s benefit to accrue delayed retirement credits. However, the Bi-Partisan Budget Act of 2015 has altered this policy. Effective April 30, 2016, File and Suspend will no longer exist.

This is truly only a fraction of the many rules and regulations (2,827) that encompass the Social Security law. And, all of these laws carry exceptions to the rules. Most people that take their taxes to be done by an accountant or CPA have a better end result…..because these professionals are versed in the law and know the exceptions to the rules. This is also true of your Social Security Benefit. This is a benefit that will be with you the rest of your life, so have it professionally reviewed for the best end result.

Please visit our website at or email us with any questions at You may also call Pillars (Roy and Diane Thompson) at 601-954-0699 with any questions you may have. We enjoy what we do and love to help people better their Social Security benefit.