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    HomeLifestyleNavigating Social Security: Strategies for Couples and Caregivers in 2024

    Navigating Social Security: Strategies for Couples and Caregivers in 2024

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    Retirement fund bankrupt
    Retirement fund bankrupt

    Social Security remains a vital source of retirement income for Americans, with the program undergoing various adjustments in 2024 that affect beneficiaries. One significant change is the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which has been set at 3.2%, marking a decline from the previous year’s figure but still above the two-decade average of 2.6%.

    Retirement Planning with glasses and pen, business concept
    Retirement Planning with glasses and pen, business concept

    This adjustment has brought the average Social Security retirement check to $1,864.52 a month as of March 2024.

    Senior Couple Talking With A Consultant
    Senior Couple Talking With A Consultant

    Married couples have unique considerations when it comes to claiming Social Security benefits. With a significant portion of retirement income hinging on Social Security for many couples, strategies to maximize joint income are essential.

    Savings
    Savings

    One such approach, known as the “split strategy,” involves one spouse, often the higher earner, delaying benefits until age 70, while the other starts claiming at their full retirement age or earlier.

    senior husband with hand on hip looking at laptop near wife on couch on blurred background
    senior husband with hand on hip looking at laptop near wife on couch on blurred background

    Using online programs like Open Social Security can be invaluable in determining the optimal claiming strategy for a couple’s specific situation.

    Disabled daughter in wheelchair feeling sad,asian little child girl with depressive symptoms,left leg amputee,crippled,depression,female caregiver or mother care,support in outdoor park,disability concept
    Disabled daughter in wheelchair feeling sad,asian little child girl with depressive symptoms,left leg amputee,crippled,depression,female caregiver or mother care,support in outdoor park,disability concept

    Furthermore, a lesser-known provision in Social Security regulations can impact spouses serving as caregivers for a child with disabilities.

    Social Security Disability Claim Concept. An application form on the table next to a red pen and glasses
    Social Security Disability Claim Concept. An application form on the table next to a red pen and glasses

    If one spouse retires and begins receiving Social Security benefits, and they have a child who qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the caregiving spouse may also be eligible for spousal benefits, regardless of not having reached retirement age. This ‘loophole’ can provide significant additional income to the family.

    Happy elderly man embracing mature woman
    Happy elderly man embracing mature woman

    Another change for 2024 is the end of a longstanding spousal rule that permitted switching between personal and spousal benefits to maximize the monthly payment. This rule now only applies to individuals who turned 70 on or before January 1, 2024.

    happy senior wife laughing while holding hands with husband on terrace on blurred background
    happy senior wife laughing while holding hands with husband on terrace on blurred background

    The earnings test for seniors working while collecting Social Security benefits has also been updated.

    cheerful senior couple giving high five while sitting near pink flowers on terrace
    cheerful senior couple giving high five while sitting near pink flowers on terrace

    The exempt amount has increased to $22,320, with $1 withheld for every $2 earned above this threshold until reaching full retirement age.

    Cropped view of elderly man with walking stick in hands
    Cropped view of elderly man with walking stick in hands

    For high earners, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax has risen to $168,600.

    Businessman Brainstorming About Retirement Planning
    Businessman Brainstorming About Retirement Planning

    Additionally, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has implemented changes to simplify overpayment rules, reducing the repayment amount to the greater of $10 or 10% of the beneficiary’s total monthly benefit, with a longer recovery period extended to 60 months and a more straightforward appeal process for beneficiaries.

    cropped view of senior man putting coin in yellow piggy bank
    cropped view of senior man putting coin in yellow piggy bank

    It’s worth noting that the number of states taxing Social Security benefits has decreased to 10, with Missouri and Nebraska eliminating state income taxes on these benefits as of January 1, 2024. This change may lead to additional tax savings for beneficiaries in those states.

    cropped view of couple woman counting money near envelope with 'roth ira' lettering
    cropped view of couple woman counting money near envelope with ‘roth ira’ lettering

    As Social Security continues to evolve, individuals and couples are encouraged to explore all available options to maximize their benefits and secure their financial future in retirement.

    Senior black couple, taxes and home with laptop, documents or focus in home for family finance. Elderly, woman and man with computer, tablet or notebook in audit, budget or planning on lounge sofa.
    Senior black couple, taxes and home with laptop, documents or focus in home for family finance. Elderly, woman and man with computer, tablet or notebook in audit, budget or planning on lounge sofa.

    It is advisable to consult with a financial advisor or a special needs planning attorney, particularly for those navigating the complexities of caregiver benefits, to ensure optimal Social Security benefit planning.

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