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Looking for Social Security Advice? Avoid These Blunders

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Written by: Devin Carroll | Social Security Intelligence 

The experts are here. And more are on the way. Waves of financial advisors and insurance agents.  Armed with slick software and annuity applications.

Their expertise?   Social Security.

You should hide your parents…or yourself if you’re the target.

My bet is that it’s just getting started.  Over the next 17 years there will be 10,000 people per day who turn 65.  Most of these people will all ask the same question, “When should I file for Social Security?”

Recognizing this tsunami of retirees, financial services firms want their agents and advisors to help answer this question.  They’ve invested millions of dollars into software development so their representatives can position themselves as experts.

Why?  It’s pretty simple.  These big firms understand that applying for Social Security is usually one of the first of many big retirement decisions.  They understand that if you seek them out for Social Security advice, they’re in a good position to hit you with an investment pitch.

Bait and switch?  Not exactly, but here’s the problem.  Most advisors and insurance salesman do not understand how Social Security works.  There’s a reason that SSA.Gov is a 93,000 page website and that there are almost 3,000 filing rules.  It’s complex!

As the population ages, there will be a need for good advisors who understand Social Security with all of its nuances.  The good news is, there are good advisors now…you just have to know how to find them.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as inquiring as to their degree or designation. To my knowledge there are no legitimate classes or schools that can teach an advisor everything they need to know to help clients with Social Security.  For the most part, advisors have to learn the Social Security rules on their own.  Surprise!  They don’t teach us this stuff in school!

Since there are no real Social Security schools, the burden is on YOU to perform due diligence and sleuth your way to determining the advisor’s expertise.

How are you supposed to do that?  Well, you need to ask some questions.  But before you get to the heavy questions, here is the one question that will help you narrow the field.

How much does it cost?

If they offer this planning for no charge, don’t get close!  It’s tempting I know.  But if they offer Social Security consulting for “free” there will most likely be an investment pitch tied to it.

Once they have passed this test it’s time to find out how competent they are.  You should ask them a starter question like, “What’s the best age to file?”  If they give you some rule of thumb answer (e.g. 66 years old), they DON’T know Social Security beyond a surface level.   Their answer to that question should be something like, “Every situation is different; your best age to file is based on a combination of personal factors.”

If they do ok with that question, hit them with a few more like, “How much will my benefit increase between age 62 and my full retirement age?”  “What is a restricted application?”  “What are the length of marriage rules?”  These are VERY basic questions that any advisor who dispenses Social Security advice will be comfortable and confident in answering immediately.  There should be NO bumbling around or “let me check and call you back” answers on these simple questions.

If they do, look elsewhere!

So the next time you see an invitation to that “free” dinner and Social Security seminar, just take your antacids and appetite.  Leave your financial information at home.

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