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Forget Social Security and Plan Your Retirement

“Millions of seniors depend on Social Security to provide a large amount of their retirement income. Therefore, it's natural to bank on those benefits, when planning for your own retirement.”


Let’s start with the variables. When will you file? If you wait until your full retirement age, that will be different than if circumstances force you to file earlier. Will your spouse file first? Who has the larger income? You’ll need to look at who files first and when. And then? You’ll still have some unknowns.

Does Social Security have an iffy future? Despite the rumors that are floating around, Social Security is not going bankrupt. The program’s primary funding source is payroll taxes, so as long as there is a workforce, there will be benefits.  However, there are more workers leaving the workforce now than there are entering it, so the program may soon need to tap trust funds to keep up with obligations in the face of insufficient revenue.

There may be reductions in benefits. They could be as much, say some experts, as 21%. That would be a big hit for any household’s income.

If you know your Social Security history, you’ll know that Social Security was never designed to be a general retirement source. It was to help the aging and destitute. The goal for Social Security today is to replace about 40% of the average worker’s pre-retirement income. Most seniors need double that amount to keep up with expenses, so relying solely on Social Security is a bad idea.

If you really want to have enough money to support yourself in retirement, don’t bank so heavily on Social Security. Instead, save aggressively to build a nest egg that’s secure enough, so you don’t have to worry about what the government has in store for the future.

If you are under 50 and working, you can contribute up to $18,500 per year to a 401(k) and $5,500 to an IRA. Over 50? Make the most of a catch-up contribution that elevates these limits to $24,500 to a 401(k) and $6,500 to an IRA.

Even if you can’t max out your annual contribution, just setting aside an amount every month will give you a better chance for a healthy nest egg and enjoyable retirement.

There’s nothing wrong with assuming you’ll have some income from Social Security.  However, if you don’t base your retirement income on it, then your Social Security money can be a buffer against unexpected expenses or a little extra breathing room in your budget.

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