How the SSAnalyze! Tool Works

The SSAnalyze! tool can be used to identify the optimal Social Security benefit filing strategy. In the context of the tool, “optimal” is defined as being the filing strategy that produces the highest net-present-value of the resulting cash flows. In addition to identifying the optimal strategy the user can explore other strategies that might fit the user’s unique circumstances.

Input

The user is asked to enter the following data:

  • Worker’s First Name – this information is used to personalize the recommendation for this worker. If the analysis is for a married couple it does not matter whether the worker is the husband or the wife.
  • Date of Birth – this information is needed to determine this worker’s full retirement age and life expectancy. In addition, the tool calculates benefits on a month-by-month basis. For example, if this worker was born in June he/she will only get 6 months (July – December) of benefits the first year they are entitled.
  • Gender – this information is used to estimate life expectancy. Life expectancy varies between men and women.
  • Full Retirement Age Benefit – this information is used to project the benefit this worker (and his/her spouse) will receive based on factors such as age, marital status and the age the worker files for benefits.
  • Age You Plan to Stop Working – this information is used to limit the scope of the optimization based on the “earnings test”. In other words, we don’t want to consider possible filing ages if this worker is ineligible to receive benefits at that age because they are still working and are making too much money to qualify for benefits. The “earnings test” no longer applies after full retirement age. Also, if you are still working but you are making less than $16,000 you should use the default age of 60 as the age you plan to stop working because you are under the threshold of the earnings test.
  • Monthly Government Pension – a pension that this worker receives as a result of a job for which he/she did not pay a Social Security payroll tax (e.g. a CalStrs pension received by a retired teacher) can reduce this worker’s own benefit and might impact the benefit their spouse would receive. In addition, a worker that has a pension of this type might lose some or all of the spousal and/or survivor’s benefits to which they might otherwise be entitled. This information is used to quantify the impact of such a pension.
  • Expected Age at Death – this information is used to limit the time that this worker will receive benefits. The default age of death is the actuarial life expectancy used by the Social Security Administration plus 4 years (men) or 6 years (women) because people that are in a position to delay benefits will generally live beyond their actuarial life expectancy.
  • Marital status – a worker’s marital status determines which filing strategies can be used in the analysis. For example, married couples (or divorced workers that were married for more than 10 years) can take advantage of strategies that are not available to single workers.
  • Spouse’s First Name – the information entered for the spouse is the same as the information described above except that it applies to the second worker / spouse.

Methodology

When the user selects the “Get Recommendation” button the tool will calculate and then display the “optimal” filing strategy. In order to determine the optimal filing strategy the SSAnalyze! tool tries every combination of filing ages from 62 (or if specified, the age the worker stops working) to 70 (60 to 70 if the worker is widowed) until it identifies the optimal strategy. That means that for a typical optimization the tool will test 81 different filing strategies. The filing strategy with the highest net-present-value is considered the “optimal” filing strategy.

Net present value (NPV) is a methodology used to determine the present value (value in today’s dollars) of a stream of future cash flows. The discount rate is the expected rate of return if that money was invested in a low risk investment (the default is 2%). The tool uses the NPV to compare the value of the different cash flows that result from different filing strategies. The net present value seen on the report is an estimate of what the stream of benefits resulting from the chosen filing strategy would be worth to you in today’s dollars.

Results

The results of the optimization include:

  • The net-present-value of the “optimal” filing strategy
  • The recommended actions required to implement the “optimal” filing strategy
  • The estimated cash flows that would result if that strategy was implemented

The user may change the cost-of-living, the discount rate and each spouse’s life expectancy to compare the impact of those factors on the “optimal” filing strategy. In addition the user may test other filing strategies (e.g. spouse 1 files at 70, spouse 2 files at 62) to determine the impact on the net-present-value of the cash flows resulting from that strategy.

The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) used in the analysis (multiplied by 1 + COLA) is used to show the effect of inflation on the benefits. The default is 2.39% - an average of the COLAs used by the Social Security Administration in the last 20 years. The results are presented in a table showing the year, each worker’s age (as of January 1st of the given year), the way they will file in that year (benefit type) and the amount of the benefit they will receive that year by using that filing strategy.

The benefit type can be decoded as follows:

Own-‹own›: The worker has filed for their own benefit is the age the worker filed for their own benefit.

F&S-‹own›-‹f&s›: The worker has filed for their own benefit and then has suspended that benefit.is the age they will "file and suspend" - this will always be FRA because a worker can only suspend their benefits after their full retirement age and after FRA the benefit does not increase.is the age they will file for their own benefit.

Spsl-‹own›-‹spsl›: The worker has filed for their spousal benefit.is the age they will file for their spousal benefit.is the age they will file for their own benefit. If these numbers are the same then the spouse will never file for their own benefit. If is greater than the worker has restricted their application to their spousal benefit and will fill for their own benefit at a later date

Spsl-‹wrkr›-‹srvr›: The worker has filed for their survivor's benefit.is the age they will file for their survivor's benefit. The survivor's benefit is the only benefit that is dependent on when the deceased worker filed, so is the age deceased spouse filed for their benefit.

Copyright© 2014 by Bedrock Capital Management, Inc., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. The SSAnalyze! calculator is for informational purposes only. Reproduction by any means, in whole or in part, or any unauthorized use, disclosure or redistribution of its content without the express written consent of Bedrock Capital Management is strictly prohibited.

Although the information contained herein has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable, the accuracy and completeness of such information cannot be guaranteed. Users assume the entire cost and risk of any decision they choose to make with regard to theirs or their client’s Social Security benefits. Bedrock Capital Management shall not be liable for any loss or damages resulting from the use of the SSAnalyze! calculator or for any third party claims of any nature. BEDROCK CAPITAL MANAGEMENT MAKES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AS TO THE SSAnalyze! CALCULATOR, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, MERCHANTABILITY, NON-INFRINGEMENT, TITLE, OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR USE.

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