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7 Things Your Clients Should Know About Social Security Agents

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While it’s true that representatives of the Social Security Administration can’t give financial advice, they have gotten a bad rap based on horror stories and outdated information, Jason Fichtner says.

As the former chief economist for the SSA, Fichtner has an abundance of insight into the inner workings of the agency, from how its representatives are trained to how the agency defines key terms and concepts in its public-facing educational materials.

Fichtner, who is now vice president and chief economist at the Bipartisan Policy Center and senior fellow with the Alliance for Lifetime Income, says the SSA may have a bit of a mixed reputation among the financial planning community, but that viewpoint is often based on a small handful of “worst-case scenarios” that do not accurately reflect the expertise and professionalism of SSA staffers and leaders.

Fichtner made that case on the latest episode of the “Retire With Style” podcast, hosted by Alex Murguia and Wade Pfau, the retirement researchers and co-founders of the Retirement Income Style Awareness program.

During the podcast, the three economic experts took a look at the steps the federal government is taking to help clients lead a dignified retirement with support from the Social Security program. They discussed steps that have been taken to help reframe claiming decisions and how client service representatives are trained to provide the most up-to-date information.

Murguia and Fichtner also spoke at length about the steps financial planners can take to make sure their clients are informed about all their potential claiming strategies.

According to the trio, advisors should look upon SSA representatives as an important source of education for clients, but it is also important to understand that the reps are not empowered to provide individualized advice.

Ultimately, the client and the advisor must take what they learn from SSA representatives and synthesize this information into the planning and claiming process. In the end, the trio agreed, SSA reps represent a critically important, if limited, source of planning support.

See the slideshow for seven insights shared by the experts that can foster more fruitful collaboration with Social Security representatives, while giving clients a deeper understanding of how the SSA can and cannot provide support with one of the most crucial financial decisions an American makes in their lifetime.

(Image: Shutterstock)