To celebrate Veterans Day, Kiplinger's Social Security Solutions
will offer recommended claiming strategies free to all U.S.
military veterans. "The goal," explains Knight Kiplinger, editor in
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
magazine, "is to help bolster the financial security of the men and
women who have served to protect the security of our nation."
As the youngest Vietnam-era vets approach Social Security
decision time, it's important that they understand that when they
claim benefits will affect how much they and their spouses--if they
are married--will receive from the program over their lifetime. You
may claim benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70, and the
timing can profoundly affect your monthly payment. If you are due
$1,500 a month at full retirement age (currently 66), for example,
you would get $1,125 a month if you claim benefits at age 62 but
$1,980 monthly if you delay your claim until age 70.
Research by William Meyer, founder of Social Security Solutions,
and William Reichenstein, a professor of finance at Baylor
University, shows that for a single person who dies at age 80, it
makes little difference whether he or she claims Social Security
benefits at age 62, age 70 or any age in between. In any case, that
person would receive similar total benefits over his or her
lifetime. But for anyone who lives past age 80, waiting until age
70 to claim benefits will likely pay off in increased lifetime
payments. The timing decision is especially complicated, and
potentially far more rewarding, for married couples because some
strategies offer opportunities to increase lifetime benefits
Meyer and Reichenstein have created a software tool that
crunches the numbers to create a strategy, based on life-expectancy
projections, that will deliver maximum benefits. That's the tool
vets can use on November 11. The free-for-a-day program is
sponsored by Wells Fargo as part of the bank's efforts to serve
members of the military. "Choosing when to take your Social
Security benefits is one of the most important financial decisions
of your life," notes Karen Wimbish, director of retail retirement
at Wells Fargo.
Maximize your benefits. To illustrate the potential rewards of
using the tool, Meyer cites the results of an educational program
offered to a group of Iowa residents last summer. "The recommended
claiming strategies could add an average of more than $170,000 to
the lifetime benefits of those who used the tool," Meyer reports.
Estimated lifetime benefits were projected to be $27,000 to as much
as $305,000 more than the amount recipients would likely collect by
simply claiming benefits as soon as possible, at age 62. "We want
to make sure veterans don't leave money on the table by making a
silly mistake," Meyer says. "Maximizing Social Security and
coordinating those benefits with military retirement pay can
provide for a much richer retirement."
The tool will be free for veterans from 12:01 a.m. eastern time
until midnight Hawaii-Aleutian time on November 11 at
. To get a personalized claiming strategy in a downloadable report,
you'll need to input your "primary insurance amount" (PIA), which
is the estimated monthly Social Security benefit you are due at
your full retirement age. (You will not be asked for your Social
Security number.) You can get a benefits statement showing your PIA
and creating a "My Social Security" account.
Nonveterans may purchase personalized claiming strategies at