Advisors who aren’t talking about Social Security with their clients may be missing an opportunity to serve them well and retain their business.
The Nationwide Retirement Institute’s fifth consumer survey about the program, conducted by The Harris Poll, illustrates many of the public’s misconceptions about Social Security, which could addressed by advisors.
“There’s a major disconnect between what consumers think their Social Security benefit will be — and cover — compared to reality,” says Tina Ambrozy, president of sales and distribution at Nationwide.
A quarter of retirees surveyed said their Social Security payments were less than what they had expected, and 50% of future retirees thought they were eligible for benefits sooner they they actually were, according to the survey.
Many future retirees also don’t expect to collect benefits until they reach 66, which is the full retirement age for anyone born between 1943 and 1954, but in reality more than 40% of men and women start collecting benefits at age 62. That’s the earliest age to qualify for benefits, but the payments are about 25% less than at full retirement age.
Filing early is especially problematic for those who depend on Social Security for most of their retirement income, and many do. According to the Nationwide survey, about 42% of future retirees and 50% of current retirees view Social Security as their primary source of retirement income. Twenty-six percent of future retirees believe they can live comfortably in retirement on Social Security alone.
Most problematic in the survey for financial advisors is the low percentage of respondents who work with financial advisors and have received advice from them about Social Security — 13%. Among those who were counseled by their advisors on Social Security, 40% report that they had initiated the conversation.
Moreover more than 70% of future retirees and 60% of recent retirees, defined as retired less than 10 years, say they are likely to switch advisors in order to maximize Social Security benefits.
With that in mind, financial advisors who have clients born on or before Jan. 1, 1954 and are currently married or divorced and eligible for an ex-spouse’s benefit could counsel them about restricted filing. The benefit allows one member of a couple who’s reached full retirement age to claim their spousal benefit — equal to half their spouse’s Social Security benefit — while they delay collecting their own benefit until age 70. At that point they would be collecting about 30% more than they would have received at age 66.
Only one in 10 current retirees who are eligible for this benefit have had discussions with their advisor about it, according to the survey.
“We wouldn’t expect advisors to be a Social Security expert, but we believe that those working with an advisor receive 20% more from Social Security because they have a better plan,” Ambrozy tells ThinkAdvisor.
The Nationwide poll was based on an online survey of 1,013 adults 50 or older, split almost evenly between non-retirees, early retirees and those retired for 10 years or more. About 30% had incomes under $50,000, 26% had incomes $50,000 to just under $500,000, and 20% had incomes between $500,000 and $2.49 million (the rest didn’t disclose their income).
— Check out How to Get Social Security Benefits From an Ex-Spouse on ThinkAdvisor.