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5 Common Blind Spots on Social Security

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Social Security can be complicated, which is why an individual needs an advisor to walk them through salient points, and advisors need to be up to speed on the program.

A majority of people don’t know the standard benefits they could be receiving, according to a SimplyWise survey that found less than one in eight Americans aged 60 to 70 saw themselves as “very knowledgeable” on the subject. The group also found that there are five areas that are especially confusing to recipients, and only one in 300 of those who took a five-question quiz answered all the questions correctly.

Here are some Social Security questions that might be relevant to your clients. In fact, not knowing the answers could cost them thousands of dollars a year in income.

1. Claiming at which age maximizes your monthly earned Social Security benefit?

As every advisor knows, the age is 70, although 62 years is when a person can first make a claim, but benefits grow each year a person waits. After 70, the benefit doesn’t increase.

According to SimplyWise, only 42% of quiz takers got this answer correct. A third of people believed they received the maximum monthly benefit at full retirement age. The study notes that FRA entitles retirees to 100% of their primary insurance amount, or the amount an individual has earned based on their working record, but waiting past FRA means they will receive delayed retirement credits and an increased amount each year.

2. What is the earliest age non-disabled people can receive survivor benefits?

Only 9% of respondents chose the correct answer, which is age 60. Many believe it is age 62, the age people can begin claiming Social Security, which is correct for earned benefits and spousal benefits.

3. Does a current spouse need to be receiving Social Security benefits for the other spouse to qualify for spousal benefits?

The short answer is yes, and only 20% of people got this answer correct. The key here is if both spouses are claiming Social Security, one spouse can either receive their own benefit or 50% of their spouse’s amount, whichever is higher.

4. Can divorced spouses receive survivor benefits?

Yes, and only 38% of people got this answer correct. The criteria, according to SimplyWise, is a bit different than for those married. First, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years — and there are certain rules that apply to remarrying — but divorced spouses can collect survivor benefits in relation to a deceased ex-spouse.

5. Can divorced spouses receive spousal benefits?

Yes, and 67% got this answer correct. Divorced spouses who were married for at least 10 years and have not remarried can claim spousal benefits.

The survey had 300 participants aged 60 to 70 and was done through SurveyMonkey.

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