Quicken Social Security Optimizer

Social Security provides income to retirees and their families and is an important element of any household’s financial plan. However, the rules regarding claiming Social Security are numerous and complex, making it difficult to determine how to maximize your benefits or how to determine which filing strategies are most suited to your particular situation. The Quicken Social Security Optimizer is used by investment professionals at many of the world’s largest financial institutions. Now, our institutional-quality Social Security Optimizer is available to you.

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Customized for You

Our system will tell you how you can get the most out of your Social Security benefits. But every person’s situation is different, and getting the most may not always be practical for you. One of the leading ways to maximize benefits is to delay claiming Social Security as long as possible (up to age 70). Often that means supporting those “gap” years (between retiring and claiming benefits) with income generated from an investment portfolio, like a brokerage account or IRA. But what if, like many people, your investment accounts are not large enough to support all, some, or any gap years? What if you can’t wait to claim? You still need to know how to file for your benefits in order to get the most out of Social Security in your specific situation. Should you file for your own benefits, or for a spouse’s, whether still married, divorced, or widowed? We know no two situations are alike, so our optimizer lets you compare various scenarios of your choice to see which filing strategy is best for you. Even if either you or your spouse have already filed for Social Security benefits, our system can give you valuable recommendations for how to proceed going forward.

How Quicken Social Security Optimizer Works

You provide some basic information about yourself (and your (ex-)spouse) and Quicken Social Security Optimizer figures out the specifics of how you can maximize your Social Security income. This includes detailed instructions on when to file, how to file (e.g. for your own or your (ex-)spouse’s benefits), and whether you should switch filing strategies at a certain point in time. It lets you compare this “optimal” strategy to various strategies of your own choosing – like filing earlier than recommended – so you can find the most appropriate strategy for you. There are numerous factors that need to be taken into account when determining the benefits and drawbacks of various Social Security filing strategies.

Some examples of these considerations incorporated into our optimizer are:

  • Actual or estimation of the benefit a worker could expect to get at Full Retirement Age (FRA). This benefit is known as the Full Retirement Age Benefit (FRA Benefit).
  • Determining a worker’s FRA, which can vary based on year of birth and also has special rules regarding the day of the month on which someone was born.
  • The reduction in benefits a worker should expect if filing for benefits prior to the FRA.
  • The increase in benefits (Delayed Retirement Credits) a worker should expect if filing after the FRA.
  • The benefits a spouse (or a divorcee) could expect when claiming Spousal Benefits off the primary worker’s Social Security record, including any discount for filing prior to the FRA.
  • The benefits a widow(er) could expect when claiming Survivor Benefits, including any discount for filing prior to the Survivor FRA (which can be different from the worker’s own FRA).
  • The calculation of monthly, annual and cumulative benefits over a claimant’s lifetime, resulting in a recommended strategy for comparison against a common baseline strategy (e.g. filing immediately upon retirement).
  • Details of the way in which a worker, spouse or widow(er) should file for benefits, commonly termed “filing instructions”.

How to File

Once you have used the Quicken Social Security Optimizer to determine the specific filing strategy that is right for you, the best and easiest way to file for benefits is through the Social Security Administration’s online application, which you can get to by clicking here. It takes a bit of time for the SSA to process your application, so we recommend applying three months before you want to start receiving your benefits.

2015 Budget Act

The rules regarding Social Security change from time to time. Typically, any changes are minor, with the annual Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) updates being a good example, but sometimes the changes are more significant. On November 2nd 2015 the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 came into effect, and included some meaningful changes to Social Security which are most relevant to married couples and divorcees. Quicken Social Security Optimizer has been updated to reflect the new rules, so what are they and how might they affect your benefits?

  • Under the old rules, it was possible for a worker to file for their own retirement benefits at FRA and then immediately suspend benefit payments, a tactic often called “file and suspend”. Why would someone want to do this? Firstly, the worker who suspends benefits and resumes them at age 70 will receive the same increased benefit they would have received had they simply filed at age 70. Secondly, and most importantly, their spouse could file for spousal benefits on the worker’s account while it was suspended, allowing their own retirement benefit to grow before eventually switching to it at age 70. This ability to receive spousal benefits on a suspended account goes away on April 30th 2016, but it only applies to new suspensions on or after that date; anyone who has already suspended benefits at that time can continue to do so.
  • When filing for benefits, a person might be eligible for both their own retirement benefit and a spousal benefit at the same time. Prior to the 2015 rule changes, a person filing for benefits at FRA or later was able to specify the type of benefit they wanted to receive; either their own benefit or a spousal benefit. If they picked the spousal benefit, then their own benefit could continue to grow until they switched to it at a later date. So long as it’s not associated with a suspended account per the previous rule change, any person who turns age 62 before the end of 2015 will still be able to request a spousal benefit when they reach their FRA, and switch to their own increased benefit later. Anyone who turns age 62 in 2016 or later, however, will no longer be able to do this; they will receive the higher of the two benefit amounts automatically, and will not be able to switch.

When looking through all the potential scenarios for a couple or a divorcee, Quicken Social Security Optimizer considers the old rules for any scenarios where they are still available, and applies the new rules in all other cases. This means it’s easy to find out whether taking advantage of the “file and suspend” option before it goes away on April 30th is a good strategy for you, and also helps you plan ahead on requesting spousal benefits in the future if you are eligible to do so. If neither of these options are available or the best option for you, Quicken Social Security Optimizer suggests the filing approach that maximizes your lifetime benefits and lets you compare alternative strategies, just as you’d expect.

Take a Tour to see more about Quicken Social Security Optimizer.

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