HTLF Retirement Plan Services
Head of the Class

When it comes to understanding important facts about Social Security benefits, a recent survey indicates a sizeable knowledge gap among Americans. Here are four lessons that everyone should master.

Master these Social Security lessons to get a more realistic view of your retirement.

According to Nationwide’s 8th Annual Social Security Consumer Survey, more than half of Americans express confidence that they know exactly how to optimize their Social Security benefits. However, only 6% actually understand all the factors that determine the maximum benefit someone can receive. In addition, the report highlighted additional knowledge gaps:

  • A full 39% don’t know at what age they are eligible to receive their full benefits.
  • Just over half (51%) do not have a clear understanding of how much they will receive in future income.
  • Over a third (37%) incorrectly assume that Social Security benefits are not protected against inflation.
  • Nearly half (45%) mistakenly believe if they claim their benefits early, their benefits will go up automatically when they reach full retirement age.

By mastering these lessons, you’ll immediately go to the head of the class for retirement planning—and avoid being an unfortunate statistic in some company’s future survey!

Lesson #1: Your “full retirement age” for Social Security benefits is the age at which you may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits.

Match your birth year to the full retirement ages shown below. Now, kindly memorize it!

Birth Year Full Retirement Age
1955 66 + 2 months
1956 66 + 4 months
1957 66 + 6 months
1958 66 + 8 months
1959 66 + 10 months
1960 & later 67

Lesson #2: Social Security will only replace a portion of your preretirement income.

The rule of thumb is that you’ll need to replace about 75%–80% of your preretirement income. Social Security will help fund part of your income needs, generally somewhere between 25-40% (depending on your earnings history). Your personal savings and retirement account will have to make up the difference.

Lesson #3: The longer you wait until you start taking your Social Security benefits, the more money you’ll receive.

Age 62 is the minimum age at which you can choose to begin receiving Social Security benefits. However, the math is pretty black and white: claiming earlier gives you a reduced benefit, and claiming later gives you an increased benefit. For each year you postpone taking your benefit (until age 70), your monthly check will be larger. Check out the Social Security Benefits Planner (www.ssa.gov/planners) for more comprehensive information, including calculators and other resources.

Lesson #4: Social Security benefits are somewhat protected against inflation.

For 2021, the Social Security Administration is paying out a cost-of-living adjustment of 1.3%. In planning for your retirement income, it’s important to note that any cost-of-living adjustment from the Social Security Administration can vary each year and is not guaranteed. Cost-of-living adjustments are typically announced in October of each year.

Heartland Retirement Plan Services are offered through Dubuque Bank and Trust Company. The information provided herein is general in nature and is not intended to be nor should be construed as specific investment, legal or tax advice. The factual information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. Heartland Retirement Plan Services makes no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, it. Products offered through Heartland Retirement Plan Services are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed and may lose value, unless otherwise noted.