What Iowans Need to Know About Social Security

Social Security provides benefits to almost 65 million Americans, and those monthly payments have an enormous impact on Iowans’ financial health. Here’s what Social Security can mean for you and your family’s financial future.

Social Security: Most Iowans know at least something about it, but do you know enough? For decades, Social Security has been providing valuable information and tools to help you build financial security. In 2021, an average of 65 million Americans per month will receive a Social Security benefit, totaling over one trillion dollars in benefits paid during the year.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data:

• Social Security accounts for at least 50 percent of income for more than half of the 65-plus population.

• It provides more than 90 percent of income for nearly a quarter of that group.

• It keeps nearly 3 in 10 older Americans from falling below the poverty line.

Social Security benefits are based on how long you’ve worked, how much you’ve earned, and when you start receiving benefits. Here’s what you need to know about Social Security and how it can help you in retirement.

How Retirement Benefits Work

Social Security reaches almost every family, and at some point, touches the lives of nearly all of us. Social Security helps older Americans, workers who become disabled, and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Most beneficiaries are retirees and their families, but Social Security was never meant to be the only source of income for people when they retire.

According to SSA.gov, the portion of your pre-retirement wages that Social Security replaces is based on several factors and varies depending on how much you earn and when you choose to start benefits.

When you work, you pay taxes into Social Security. This tax money is used to pay benefits to:

  • People who have already retired.
  • People who are disabled.
  • Survivors of workers who have died.
  • Dependents of beneficiaries.

The money you pay in taxes isn’t held in a personal account for you to use when you get benefits. The Social Security Administration uses your taxes to pay people who are getting benefits right now. Any unused money goes to the Social Security trust fund that pays monthly benefits to you and your family when you start receiving retirement benefits.

Social Security and Retirement Planning

No matter how distant retirement feels, Social Security will still be around when you stop working, although it may look slightly different than it does today. Understanding how the program works will help in your retirement decision-making. According to JohnHancok.com, there are 5 factors to consider when using Social Security and planning for retirement:

  1. You’ll have Social Security when you retire: There are three main funding sources for Social Security. Income taxes are the biggest one, which make up 89% of the program’s total funding.
  2. Benefits are based on a 35-year span: Social Security benefits are based on your lifetime earnings and are adjusted to account for changes in average wages. To estimate what you may receive, the program bases your benefits on your 35 highest-earning working years.
  3. Your payout may be reduced: At the current pace, reserves may be used up by 2035, but Social Security won’t end. The program will still pay out benefits from the money it receives from annual tax revenue. Those payments would be about 80% of what beneficiaries would normally collect if the reserves hadn’t been used. A financial planner can help you explore ways to supplement retire income from Social Security.
  4. You’ll have to wait a bit longer for full payout: Since people are living longer and are generally healthier in older age, the Social Security Administration raised the full retirement age to 67 for people born in 1960 or later, up from 65. You can apply for benefits as early at 62, although your benefit would be reduced by 30%. On the other hand, if you can wait until age 70, you will get 124% of the monthly benefit because you delayed getting benefits for 36 months.
  5. Account for Taxes: Depending on your income in retirement, your Social Security benefits may be taxable. If Social Security is your only source of income, you may not have to pay taxes. Iowa does not tax Social Security benefits. While Social Security benefits are excluded from income when computing tax, some Social Security benefits are included as income in determining whether a taxpayer has sufficient income to file an Iowa return, and are included as income for purposes of computing the alternate tax on line 39 of the form here.

Social Security Should Be Just One Part of Your Retirement Plan

On average, retirement beneficiaries receive 40-50% of their pre-retirement income from Social Security. As you make your retirement plan, knowing the approximate amount you will receive in Social Security benefits can help you determine how much other retirement income you’ll need to reach your goals. This is where financial calculators can come in useful. These calculators can help you paint a better picture of what your retirement might have in store.

Knowing what you will get every month in retirement benefits will help you plan for your retirement. If you have a my Social Security account, you can get an estimate of your personalized retirement benefits there also, and see the effects of different retirement age scenarios. If you don’t have a personal my Social Security account, create one at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or you can use our online Retirement Estimator at www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.

Last Thoughts

While a lot of information has been provided here, unfortunately there’s a lot more to know: Can I receive Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s earnings? When someone dies, how does Social Security know? How can I boost the amount of my benefit?

If you already have a retirement plan that takes your Social Security benefits into account, that’s great! You’re one step closer to ensuring your assets last throughout your lifetime.

If you need help with retirement planning, we can get you started. Our commitment is to help you work towards achieving all your financial goals and to help provide you with a “worry free” retirement.

Reach out the to the retirement income experts at Johnson Wealth and Income Management here today.


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