The Fix... An Inside Look at How Helmstar Uses Data and Research for Planning

As Baby Boomers age (see previous blog post, The Big Boom), deciding when to start Social Security retirement benefits becomes it’s own puzzle within the even larger puzzle of a large retirement plan.

To sort it all out, the Helmstar team uses research-backed data along with a healthy understanding of the unique situation of the client.

The Client’s Burning Question:

“Should I live on some of my existing investments and wait to take Social Security in order to get a higher benefit later, or take Social Security early in hopes of withdrawing less from my investments?”

VARIABLES

• Assessing how to approach Social Security requires a deep dive into many financial and non-financial aspects of the client’s life:

• Do they have an additional pension (stream of income)?

• Are they married?

• How much liquid (i.e. investments accessible for living expenses) net worth do they have?

• Do they have large health care or prescription expenses?

• Do they have a robust emergency savings?

• Have they had notable health challenges (heart attack, cancer, etc.)?

• What percentage of their monthly expenditures will they take out after working?

• Are they still working?

THE DIALOGUE

Many clients have pre-conceived notions about Social Security — many of which are rooted in faulty (or downright absurd) realities. For example, many believe they need to begin their benefits as soon as possible before Social Security “runs out,” or because “you never know” with the stock market, or because their family doesn’t traditionally live to a ripe old age. Alternatively, some savers will continue to work in a job they despise because they don’t want to file for Social Security “too early.”

These emotionally-based views may feel real, but they are not. Social Security is secure for people in their 50s and 60s (that could change for 30-somethings, however). And, of course, lifespan, stock market returns and a thousand other things are unknowable — they always have been.

But basing decisions on fear over facts simply is not the path to a successful financial plan.

Through an ongoing and deep dialogue, the Helmstar team examines the realities of the client’s financial situation and develops a clear plan of action that gives them the confidence to make decisions based on reality, not preconceptions.

IMPACT

Integrating smart Social Security planning into a “bigger picture” retirement plan can easily add tens of thousands of dollars in a client’s pocket over the course of retirement. And not just in the obvious ways.

In addition to potentially deferring Social Security benefits early for higher payments later, intelligent, data-driven planning can produce lower taxes, better survivorship benefits for spouses and other less obvious financial benefits.

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