Don’t fall into these Social Security traps

(I find that MANY of the clients I work with are not aware that the income from their pensions and “qualified” savings plans (like 401k’s and IRA’s) will make their Social Security income taxable. This is one of the areas where an IUL is especially effective for retirement planning, because the distributions from an IUL are income tax-free and will NOT cause your Social Security income to become taxable.

Michael Goodman)

(this article was originally posted on and you can see it HERE)

By Kandice Bridges,

If you’re looking forward to turning age 62 so you can begin collecting Social Security benefits and live on Easy Street, you might get caught off guard. Some of the Social Security rules can be frighteningly complex. Because it will likely represent a large portion of your retirement income, it’s important to understand how the government program works.

For instance, there are limits on how much you can earn while collecting benefits, and if you exceed those limits, your Social Security benefits will get cut substantially. That’s just one of the snares that could trip you up.

Make sure you plan appropriately to avoid these six Social Security traps.

Trap No. 1: Social Security may be taxable

If your earnings exceed a certain level, up to 85 percent of Social Security benefits may be taxable. Even income sources that are normally tax-exempt, such as income from municipal bonds, must be factored into the total income equation for the purpose of computing tax on Social Security benefits.

Eric Levenhagen, CPA and Certified Tax Coach with ProWise Tax & Accounting, says to find out whether any of your Social Security benefits are taxable, “Look at your total taxable income plus half of your Social Security benefit. Make sure you add back any tax-exempt interest income.”
When your taxable income, tax-free income and half of your Social Security benefit exceed $25,000 ($32,000 for married couples filing jointly), that’s when you’re in the zone to pay taxes on Social Security income.

Another unexpected income source that could impact taxes on Social Security: proceeds from a Roth conversion. If you’re thinking about doing a Roth conversion, do so before receiving Social Security benefits, says Steve Weisman, an attorney and college professor at Bentley University. “A lot of people considering converting a traditional (individual retirement account) into a Roth IRA should be aware that if they do that, they will end up paying income tax on the conversion, which will also be included for determining whether Social Security benefits are taxable,” he says.

Trap No. 2: Must take required minimum distributions

Required minimum distributions, or RMDs, must generally be made from tax-deferred retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs, after a person reaches age 70 1/2. The distributions are treated as ordinary income and may push a taxpayer above the threshold where Social Security benefits become taxable.

“This is a double-edged sword,” says Weisman. “If you are over 70 1/2, you are required to begin taking distributions from IRAs (except Roth IRAs) and other retirement accounts.”

“Here again, you take half of the Social Security benefits plus all other income to determine whether Social Security benefits are taxable. RMDs will be included and drive that up,” says Levenhagen.

You can’t avoid required minimum distributions, but you can avoid being surprised at tax time.

Trap No. 3: Some workers don’t get Social Security

Most people assume Social Security is available to seniors throughout the U.S., but not every type of work will count toward earning Social Security benefits. Many federal employees, certain railroad workers, and employees of some state and local governments are not covered by Social Security.

“Some of my clients have participated in retirement programs offered by employers that don’t pay into Social Security,” says Charles Millington, president at Millington Financial Advisors LLC in Naperville, Ill. “If your employer does not participate in Social Security, then you should be covered under the retirement program offered by your employer.”

However, certain positions within a state government may be covered by Social Security.
Find out whether your employer participates in Social Security or not and if not, whether your position may be covered by Social Security. Make sure you understand where your retirement benefits will be coming from.

Trap No. 4: Early benefits could be a big mistake

If you opt to take Social Security as soon as you are eligible, you may be doing yourself an injustice.

“If you delay taking benefits until age 70, you will see as much as an 8 percent increase in benefits for each year you delay,” says Steve Gaito, Certified Financial Planner professional and director of My Retirement Education Center. “In addition to receiving a higher benefit, the annual cost-of-living adjustment will be based on the higher number.”

“It’s hard to find that kind of rate of return on regular investments, so it’s good to delay if you can,” says Weisman.

Of course, life expectancy plays a part in the decision of when to begin drawing benefits. “You generally know how healthy you are and what your family medical history is,” says Ryan Leib, vice president of Keystone Wealth Management. “We advise clients to determine whether they think they will live longer than age 77. If so, delaying until age 70 will net you more in benefits than opting to start collecting benefits early.”

If you’re able to live off other funds and delay taking Social Security, you should seriously consider doing so. “Delaying taking Social Security until age 70 could mean the difference between cat food and caviar in retirement,” says Leib.

Trap No. 5: Windfall elimination provision

If you work for multiple employers in your career, including both employers that don’t withhold Social Security taxes from your salary (for example, a government agency) and employers that do, the pension you receive based on the noncovered work may reduce your Social Security benefits.

“Many people are not aware that their actual Social Security benefit may be lower than the amount shown on their statements or online because the windfall elimination provision reduction does not occur until the person applies for their benefits and (the Social Security Administration) finds out they are entitled to a pension,” says Charles Scott, president of Pelleton Capital Management in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Social Security applies a formula to determine the reduction. In 2014, the maximum WEP reduction is $408. There is a limit to the WEP reduction for people with very small pensions.

If you have worked for both noncovered and covered employers, don’t let the windfall elimination provision catch you by surprise.

Trap No. 6: Limits on benefits while working

You are allowed to collect Social Security and earn wages from your employer. However, if your wages exceed $15,480 in 2014, your Social Security benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn above that level.

During the year in which you reach full retirement age — which ranges from age 65 to 67, depending on your birth year — you can earn up to $41,400 before $1 of your Social Security benefits will be deducted for every $3 you earn above that threshold. However, the money isn’t lost forever. You will be entitled to a credit, so your benefits will increase beginning the month you reach full retirement age.

At full retirement age, no income restrictions apply. “There is no penalty for additional income earned,” says Gaito.

If you plan on working beyond age 62 and anticipate earning more than $15,480 per year, strongly consider putting off Social Security benefits.


To discuss how to convert some of your currently taxable income into tax-free distributions, please Contact Me

Michael Goodman
Life Insurance Agent, Santa Clarita, California


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The IUL Advantage – Case Study 1

I’ve been talking to a potential client and would like you to check my math and give your opinion. This woman is a healthy 37 year old with a good job who will have a nice pension when she retires, but no Social Security. She has been saving $1,000 a month in recent years and depositing it in a qualified plan, where it’s been invested in cash because she’s afraid of losing her money in the market, so it’s earning no interest. She’s single and still lives at home with her parents, so she’s getting killed on taxes, but the tax deduction helps a bit. The beneficiary of her qualified plan is her brother.

Here’s my analysis – “If you continue on your current path, you’ll save $336,000 through age 65 (not including the money you’ve saved already). You’ll earn some income tax deductions (maybe $117,600 if you’re in the 35% bracket) but that’s it.

Let’s take a look at what might happen if you earn 6% on the same money. $12,000 a year saved for 28 years at 6% will grow to $822,337. But there are two questions –

1. How will taxes affect you later?

2. Where can you safely earn 6%?

Let’s talk about taxes first. If you stay on your current course and have $336,000 (plus your previous savings) for retirement and take out just the recommended minimum distribution (1/21 at age 65) to supplement your pension, that’s $16,000 per year, with all of it taxable. That’s about $5,600 in taxes, leaving you about $10,400 per year from all your years of savings.

Assuming you can find an approved investment for your qualified plan that earns 6%, your $822,337 will pay out at $39,158 per year, all of it taxable. 35% taxes will eat up $13,705, leaving you with $25,452 per year, net.

One other thing, if you were to die before reaching retirement, your brother would receive the balance in your account and MAY be taxed in the year he receives it as regular income, resulting in a huge tax bite.

But, do you know of any investments that are approved for your particular qualified plan that will consistently yield 6% without risk of loss? I only know of one that gets close. An indexed annuity with an income rider. Using one of these can achieve that last scenario with costs of less than 1% per year. You can even reduce the tax bite by putting $5,500 a year into a Roth IRA because the future payouts from the Roth will be tax-free. This strategy will get your retirement income up to about $30,000 per year, net.

But there is one other strategy that we have discussed, the Life Insurance Retirement Strategy. Using an IUL (indexed universal life policy) the way we have discussed, you would only put HALF your future savings into the IUL ($500 per month through age 65) without fear of market losses, then you could take $70,000 per year TAX-FREE for life (assuming the S&P 500 performs the way it has for the last 30 years and based on the expected cost of insurance and fees for a healthy 37 year old woman). That’s more than double the results from half the savings! (you could still put the other half of your savings into a Roth and increase your tax-free distributions even more!)

On top of this, if you die before reaching retirement (or after), your family would get at least $511,417, income tax-free.”

What do you think? Should she –

A. Continue putting $1,000 a month into a qualified plan earning nothing?

B. Put $500 into a Roth IRA and the other $700 into the existing qualified plan, with both accounts going into an indexed annuity that earns a guaranteed 6.75% with the income rider at a cost of less than 1% per year (and also gets a bonus of 10% on all premium deposited in the first 7 years)?

C. Put $600 a month into the Life Insurance Retirement Plan using an indexed universal life insurance policy (IUL) and max fund a Roth IRA?

D. Do something else?

Keep in mind that this client is very risk-averse, so stocks are not a good choice for her.

I welcome your opinions.

Michael Goodman

Life Insurance Agent, Santa Clarita, California

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The Alternative to a 401K

This video features reports from Frontline, 60 Minutes, MSNBC, and Time Magazine and discusses the life insurance alternative to a 401k.

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The IUL Advantage – Why You Need an Indexed Universal Life Policy

The IUL Advantage

With an indexed universal life insurance policy (IUL), you make premium payments like any other life insurance policy. Part of the premium pays for the cost of insurance and other fees, and the rest goes into a cash growth account. Universal life insurance was created in the late 1970’s as a vehicle for tax-deferred cash growth.  With an indexed universal life policy, the growth of the cash value is TIED to the growth of an index, frequently the S&P 500, but is not actually invested IN the S&P 500. When the index goes up, the cash value in the policy goes up, up to a Cap Rate (10-14.5%). When the index goes down, the cash value in an IUL stays the same because the account has a floor rate of 0%.  So, if the market goes up 10%, your cash value goes up 10%. If the market goes up 20% and you have a cap of 14%, your cash value goes up 14%. But when the market goes DOWN 15%, your account stays the same. There are never any losses due to the market. Tax-free distributions are received as policy loans. Standard loans are usually “wash loans.” The loans are secured by the cash value, which continues to grow at a fixed rate and offsets the interest charged for the loan. Variable loans are also available, where the loans are made at 4-6% interest, but that interest is offset by the indexed growth, which may be higher than the interest rate charged, allowing for extra growth due to arbitrage.

IUL’s have many advantages over other tools for saving money, especially when it comes to retirement savings. Here are the most important advantages –

1. Flexible deposits without annual limits.

2. Indexed growth – When the market goes up, your account goes up. When the market goes down, you don’t lose money.

3. You never lose money because of market losses.

4. Access to your money without income taxes or early withdrawal penalties at any age.

5. Tax-free distributions for life.

6. Living Benefits – Money to help pay costs related to chronic illness, long term care, or a terminal illness. This money comes from the death benefit, not your cash value.

7. A death benefit that pays income tax free to your family or other heirs.

8. During the most recent 30 years, the S&P 500 grew at an annualized rate of 8.39% (not including dividends). Using the index strategy in an indexed universal life insurance policy during the same period (with a cap of 14.5%) produced a rate of growth of 8.6% (after deductions for the cost of insurance).

Every IUL is custom made for my clients. Would you like to know what an IUL can do for you?

Get more information

Michael Goodman

Life Insurance Agent, Santa Clarita, California

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