Most people put very little time into planning their Social Security benefits. When you consider that the official Social Security handbook contains over 2,700 separate rules1, it’s no wonder people don’t get very far. As a result, despite rising life expectancy, more than half of all Americans simply choose to take early reduced benefits.

In most cases, we feel this is short-sighted. Consider the following unique advantages of Social Security benefits:

  • They are indexed for inflation
  • They receive preferential federal tax treatment
  • They are not subject to state income taxes in most states (including California)
  • Enhanced benefits can be passed on to surviving spouses
  • They are fully guaranteed by the US government (our view on the system’s solvency)

Making the most of these guaranteed benefits can greatly reduce the strain on your portfolio to generate the income you need. As a result, this is a critical and often overlooked step in building a robust retirement income plan.

Some of the ways we help clients optimize their benefits include:

  • Examining longevity to determine when to commence benefits
  • Advanced filing strategies where applicable, such as electing spousal benefits and later switching to one’s own benefit record
  • Evaluating joint life scenarios that take into account the surviving spouse’s income needs

This represents one of a small handful of opportunities to strengthen your retirement regardless of market performance. The other primary method is reducing lifetime income taxes.

1 – This handbook is available at the Social Security Administration’s website (