Where to Turn for Trustworthy Social Security Advice
Although we rely on the good will of others in many aspects of life, claiming your Social Security benefits should not be one of them. As your retirement nears, it is important to understand who you can and cannot trust when it comes to accurate Social Security advice. See below for five popular sources of Social Security advisor and how they rate in terms of accuracy and reliability.
1. Do not trust the Internet. Aside from reading up on tips and tidbits involving Social Security advice from online articles (such as this), do not use the web as your primary source of Social Security benefit information. It is very easy for anyone to post blogs or create websites filled with false information, and this is not the kind of information you want to base a critical financial decision on. As with many other things in life, you can’t always believe what you read.
2. Do trust your accountant or financial advisor - maybe. Similar to the tax code, Social Security has thousands of different rules and loopholes. The same reason you hire an accountant to do your taxes (to maximize your returns) also applies to Social Security advice.
The right financial professionals keep updated with all the latest trends that apply to their clients. But few keep current or are knowledgeable about maximizing your social security income. Ask them what training they have had specifically in advising on Social Security.
Take advantage of their training and experience (if they have any) by consulting with them about your benefit options. A two hour meeting might cost you a couple hundred dollars, but that cost is negligible if you uncover strategies that lead to thousands of dollars in lifetime benefits.
3. Do not rely on the advice of your friends and family. Your loved ones are great for shopping, home improvement, and emotional advice, but when you’re claiming Social Security benefits, using their advice isn’t always the greatest idea. Their situations are different than yours, and applying their claiming strategies could lead to costly mistakes.
Couples alone have hundreds of different benefit options, and the best case scenario for each case is based on individual work history and financial need. The bottom line is that no two cases are alike.
4. Do depend on yourself. As the saying goes, one of only people you can count on is yourself. This tried and true statement especially rings true where retirement benefits are concerned. After all, it is your retirement money, no one else’s. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and do what you feel is best for you and your future. No one looks out for you as you do as you can get information from several sources and determine the consistent Social Security advice
5. What about the Social Security office? The unfortunate issue with employees of the Social Security office is that their Social Security advice is typically “hit-or-miss.” Keep in mind that each worker deals with hundreds of benefit claim cases each day. They are overworked and underpaid, so their incentive to maximize your benefits is just not there. On top of that, some employees are inexperienced and there is no way to determine if the advice they give you is accurate or even applicable to your situation.
Additionally, these government employees are not permitted to give advice. They are allowed only to explain your Social Security options.
When the time comes for you to begin drawing on your retirement earnings, seeking financial advice is not only fine, but highly recommended—just be smart about who you are getting your information from. Chances are that you wouldn’t trust just anyone with the hard earned cash in your bank account, so don’t trust just anyone with your retirement money either.
Jim Blair is a Social Security consultant and author of the Social Security Retirement Guide.
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