Social Security Strategy

October 14, 2015

The prospect of retirement might be decades away for some of us; regardless, anyone who hopes to retire at some point will have to tackle the topic of Social Security – what the rules are exactly, and what the best strategy is for claiming benefits. If you’re not of retirement age, you may have a parent facing these questions now; in fact with the move away from pensions, more senior Americans than ever before say they’ll rely on Social Security as a significant source of post-retirement income.

Covering the spectrum of scenarios around what to withdraw and when would take far more space than we have here – but we’ve found many helpful online resources to get you started on determining the best course of action for you or your parent. Before we get to those, please keep in mind that we’re focusing here on the retirement benefit aspect of Social Security, and NOT payouts associated with disability, survivor status, or Medicare.

To get a grasp of the BASICS of SS eligibility requirements, start with the government’s own website.  Some helpful tools they offer include:

  • A downloadable PDF entitled “Understanding the Benefits” that clearly explains what benefits are available and the rules for claiming them.
  • Their Retirement Estimator that gives you a preliminary idea of benefits you can expect based on your earnings record and other factors.
  • Their online account service that allows 24/7 access to your Social Security statement and benefit management tools.

There are also several money management websites that offer excellent walk-throughs of SS retirement basics, including Marketwatch , Kiplinger, and Financial Web.

The STRATEGY around how to file for benefits and when is where things get more nuanced, and where you’re best off seeking professional, personalized advice from a financial planner or family attorney. But there are some excellent websites that can offer perspective on the advantages and drawbacks of a variety of filing strategies. Here are some of the best we’ve found:

  • Money Magazine devotes an entire section of its website to Social Security, and delivers the most astute advice we’ve found on all angles of filing strategy, as well as how to parse the government’s filing advice and guidelines.
  • Visit’s Retirement page for lots of helpful articles, Op-Eds, infographics, and more.
  • The AARP website takes a more measured approach to filing strategy but is worth a visit for its catalogue of senior-specific content.
  • A Place for Mom are both excellent sites addressing all things senior; both offer very thorough takes on specific filing and eligibility scenarios.

Want even more info? Head to the Department of Social Security’s FAQ page for answers and links to just about anything you might need.