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Think of Social Security Like An Inflation-Adjusted Annuity

By Dave Lindorff

In recent years, advisers have come a considerable way in understanding Social Security benefits and the important role that they play in the retirement prospects of even well-off clients.

But some experts suggest that advisers could go further, particularly in the case of those clients who may not be saving enough to maintain a desired standard of living during retirement.

Steven Sass, program director at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research, says that it might help advisers and their clients to think of Social Security benefits in terms of the monthly payout on an equivalent-sized lifetime inflation-adjusted annuity, which if considered as an “income bucket,” might then allow the client to invest more savings in equities to increase retirement assets over time.

Steven Rowe, managing principal at Rowe Lynar & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is part of Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, agrees.

“For an investor receiving a Social Security check of $2,000 a month, an equivalent annuity investment of approximately $800,000 would be required, assuming a 3% yield,” he says. “And for those clients for whom Social Security is the only secure source of retirement income and whose other savings are too low to contribute much more, it is advisable to consider a meaningful allocation to equities during retirement, not only for the potential for capital appreciation as an inflation hedge but also for additional income in the form of dividends.”

Stephen Johnson, an independent Raymond James adviser based in Draper, Utah, says that most clients “still do not understand the importance of maximizing their Social Security benefits, and unfortunately all too many still take their benefits at age 62.”

He adds, “I think it’s really valid to look at how much of an annuity you’d need to buy to get the Social Security benefits you can receive.”

Social Security benefits look particularly attractive, right now, Johnson says.

“At today’s interest rates, I would not recommend buying any equivalent annuity like that,” he says.

Indeed, Social Security is so important as a secure income component of retirement, that Alicia Munnell, director of the Boston College Center for Retirement Research, recommends that most people draw on their retirement savings if they have to in order to delay collecting benefits until reaching 70 so as to maximize their benefit payments.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on preparing for retirement.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.