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Every day, 10,000 or so baby boomers are turning 65. Some of you have probably already retired. Many are likely counting the days until they can leave the full-time workforce.  For many of you, Social Security will be a major part of your retirement income.  With that in mind, it is important to know how Social Security will be changing for 2020.

Here are six ways that Social Security will be changing in 2020.

1)     Dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund

Without some major action from Congress, the current excess trust fund revenue will be depleted by the year 2034.  If this occurs, it is estimated that Social Security would only be able to pay less than 80% of the promised benefits from ongoing payroll taxes.

Donald Trump has thrown out lowering the payroll tax in an attempt to spur the economy. If the government takes this action, the Social Security trust fund would likely be depleted faster.

2)     Full Retirement Age Has Increased

For those still a few years away from retirement, those born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age has increased to 67. You will still be able to start taking Social Security Retirement Benefits at age 62, but with reduced monthly payments.

 

3)     Cost of Living Adjustment

Low inflation is a good thing for consumers, as it means pricing isn’t going up that quickly. On the other hand, lower inflation numbers mean small cost of living increases for your Social Security benefits. In case you didn’t know, your Social Security benefits may be increased each year, partially depending on inflation numbers.

For 2020, the Social Security cost of living adjustment is expected to be around 1.8%. Not life-changing, but if you are living off of Social Security alone, every penny counts. For the average retiree, this would likely amount to around $25 more per month. For the highest earners, this could come closer to $50 more per month in Social Security retirement benefits.

Update: The Social Security Administration has announce that the Cost of Living Adjustment for 2020 will be just 1.6%.

4) Maximum Social Security Benefits Will Increase

For workers near the top of the Social Security income scale, $132,900 or more for 2019, your maximum Social Security payout will likely increase slightly in 2020. No individual at full retirement age can take home more than $2,861 per month, regardless of their pre-retirement income. This number can be increased by delaying Social Security until the age of 70. Oprah won’t get more than this at full retirement age, neither will you.

Could you live off of $34,332 per year? I would not find that a pleasant standard of living here in Los Angeles. You can take home more than this amount in Social Security benefits if you delay your benefits until you reach the age of 70, but still, it would be rough to get by in most big cities.

In case you were wondering, waiting till 70 could increase your Social Security benefit by 32% compared with the starting benefit at 66. This takes the maximum monthly benefit up to about $3,776 per month.

5)     More of Your Social Security Will be Taxed

Yes, your Social Security benefits are taxable. The amount that is hit with taxes will depend on household income levels. Just fifty percent of your benefits will be taxed if your income is between $25,000 and $34,000 as an individual. That goes up to $32,000 to $44,000 for a married couple, still another example of the marriage penalty.

Hopefully, everyone reading this will have more income than that to live off in retirement. If so, 85% of your Social Security benefits will be taxable. That is assuming you have an income in retirement above $34,000 (individual) or $44,000 as a married couple.

6)     End of Two Great Social Security Maximization Strategies

File and suspend was a great social security maximization strategy that is no longer available to younger Americans. The last few baby boomers who were grandfathered into eligibility will turn 70 in 2020. Seventy is the latest you can wait to start your Social Security benefits.

Related: 6 Big Tax Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dream Retirement

I may joke that congress doesn’t do anything, but they did manage to take action to prevent people who reach full retirement age in 2020 (or later) from filing for a restricted claim of spousal benefits. Like file and suspend, this was a strategy to help smart couples maximize their Social Security benefits. Thanks a lot.

Whatever your age, take a moment and register for access to your Social Security Benefit estimates.  Visit ssa.gov, just take a few minutes and you will be able to find more information about Social Security, and more importantly, what it will mean for your retirement.

Think about your Social Security benefits when you vote in 2020 as well. With record deficits and the skyrocketing national debt, there are rumblings of draconian cuts from Trump and the Republicans to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Make today the day you find out if you are on track for the type of retirement you want. What do you have to lose? Peace of mind today, hopefully a happier, healthier and wealthier retirement in the future.

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Morgan & Weisbrod LLP

by Paul B. Burkhalter
Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.

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