It's begun. the wave of 70 million boomer retirees that's been a vivid policy discussion for years is upon us and starting to define the lives of millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, at just the wrong time, many have relegated Social Security to a marginal role in financial planning. And given some of the alarmist chatter about Social Security, it's easy to see why. It's operating in the red! It's facing $9 trillion in unfunded liabilities! It's going broke!
The first is technically true, it started paying out more than it took in 2010. But even at the current trends, it's fine for the next 20 years and with some relatively minor changes it would be just fine for decades. (And by "minor changes," I mean things that will be politically unpopular like raising the retirement age or raising taxes, albeit minimally.)
The second is ridiculous. Yes, it's based on a 75-year projection done by the government but it says nothing of how big GDP will be in 75 years, for a meaningful comparison. And as often as it gets tossed around, there is usually no mention of the assumptions that go into any financial projections. Over a time period that long, even minor changes in those assumptions make a major difference. Most important, those "minor changes" above would fix this too.
The third is ill-informed (see the first and second, above.)
To be sure, Social Security seems to be gaining traction as a financial issue, but still not enough. There are more articles about it and some conference sessions (although the last one I attended, which was superb, had only a handful of attendees in a very big room.) But many people still make a mistake on the most basic issue: When to start collecting benefits. (See our Data Center on page 32.)
This is one of the legs in the famous three-legged stool. And at one time, it was viewed as the weakest of the three. In fact, it's anything but. Advisors should be broaching this subject with their clients. And to do so, you need to be thinking as a fiduciary since it doesn't directly lead to any sales. But stay clear of the alarmist chatter and show them how to get more money for their retirement, from Uncle Sam no less. It will engender the type of loyalty that all advisors need to thrive.
- Social Security: Even Congress Shaky on Understanding
- Social Security: Planning Tips by Age
- Advisors: Reframe Retirement for Clients