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Understanding and Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits

Before you retire, you should know what all your various sources of income will be, and how much you can expect to receive from each. Obviously, Social Security benefits will be one of those sources, but how much you can expect to receive depends on many factors. There are ways to help maximize your benefits and get the most you’re entitled to, and there are strategies to help minimize your tax burden from Social Security. The most important thing to consider in working toward these goals, however, is whether your Social Security benefits are coordinated properly with your other assets and sources of retirement income. We’ll address that shortly, but let’s begin with some basic facts about Social Security.

Money You Can’t Outlive
Social Security is one of the few sources of income you can pretty much depend on for life. Once you start taking your benefits, they continue to your death—and the longer you live, the more you will extract from the system. For example, if your benefit starts at $2,000 per month, and you live 10 more years, you will receive over $300,000 in lifetime benefits. If you live 30 more years, you’ll receive over $1 million over your lifetime, assuming the annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) averaging 2.8%. That’s good to know because retirees are living longer than ever. According to figures from the Society of Actuaries, there is a 35% chance that the average 65-year-old man will live to age 90 and the average 65-year-old woman has a 46% chance of living to age 90. For the average couple aged 65, there is a 50% chance that both spouses will live to age 81 and at least one spouse will live to age 92.

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