Few retirement decisions are as critical, or as easy to get wrong, as when and how to take your Social Security benefits. The rules can be so convoluted that many people rely on what they’re told by Social Security employees, but that could prove to be an expensive mistake.
Certified financial planner Kate Gregory of Huntington Beach, California, uses sophisticated Social Security claiming software to recommend strategies that maximize clients’ lifetime benefits. Gregory advised one of her clients, a widow, to apply for her own small retirement benefit first so that her survivor benefit could grow, then switch to the larger benefit later. When the woman contacted Social Security, however, she was told she could get the survivor benefit only.
“That left her really flustered,” Gregory says.
The widow eventually was able to get the benefits she’s entitled to in the correct order, but Gregory and other financial planners…