New Proposal to Fund Retirement and Delay Social Security Benefits

Supplemental Transition Accounts For Retirement – STARTs 101 New Proposal to Fund Retirement and Delay Social Security Benefits
Let’s face it: Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement. Surveys consistently tell us that far too many workers have insufficient retirement funds or even absolutely nothing saved for retirement at all.

Sadly, these workers will be too dependent on Social Security benefits to have a comfortable retirement.

Many of these workers will claim benefits before their full retirement age (FRA) and receive lower benefits as a result.

Many Claim Benefits at Age 62

In 2013, 42 percent of men and 48 percent of women claimed benefits at the minimum age of 62, reducing their benefits by up to 30 percent.

A joint proposal by researchers at AARP, George Mason University, and the Brookings Institution would address this issue with a new program designed to fill the benefits gap.

Supplemental Transition Accounts for Retirement (STARTs) are designed to cover the transition phase from early retirement to FRA and possibly beyond.

Before Drawing Social Security

Retirees with a START account would have to exhaust this account first before drawing their regular Social Security benefits.

For beneficiaries planning to claim at age 62, START would allow Social Security benefits to grow until they reach FRA (or are at least closer to FRA). This would increase monthly benefits by up to 30 percent.

By waiting later to claim START benefits, you may be able to hold out claiming Social Security benefits past your FRA – adding up to 8 percent extra per year in your benefits between your FRA and age 70.

Where the Money Comes From

Where will the money come from? Just like Social Security, it comes partly from you and partly from your employer, with an added progressive contribution from the government designed to help low-income families.

As proposed, every employee will be required to add 1 percent of earnings to the START program as a payroll deduction.

Employers add another 1 percent to the pool. Employee contributions are post-tax dollars while employer contributions are pre-tax.

Income Percentages

As with Social Security, the percentages refer to income up to the limit subject to Social Security payroll taxes ($127,200 for tax year 2017 and $128,400 in 2018).

The federal government will kick in up to an additional 1 percent of earnings for low-income couples with an adjusted gross income (AGI) below $40,000, single taxpayers with an AGI below $20,000, and head of household filers with an AGI less than $30,000.

The contribution phases out with higher income, disappearing at $50,000 for couples and $25,000 for singles.

Self-Employed Contributions

As with the standard payroll tax, self-employed workers will make both employer and employee contributions – making life even more difficult as an independent contractor.

According to the proposal outline, the average monthly Social Security benefit would rise by 5 percent to 7 percent overall.

Lower-income workers, those most in need of extra funds, would see a 10 percent increase in monthly benefits.

Poverty Reduction

As a result, STARTs are projected to reduce poverty for those age 62 and above by 0.4 percentage points by 2045 and 0.6 percentage points by 2065.

Skeptics point out that this is effectively a parallel program to Social Security with income redistribution thrown in.

If the government can’t manage Social Security efficiently, why should this program be any different?

Divert from 401(k) Plans

Conversely, would START consume money that employees would normally invest in their 401(k) plans, which could produce a higher rate of return?

The START program has an uphill battle, especially if it is rightfully labeled as a mandate.

Don’t expect a START program to help you prepare your retirement – start your own program instead.

Reassess Your Retirement Plan

If you already have a retirement program in place, re-assess it to make sure that you are on track while you still have time.

In short, you should be responsible for your own retirement. Give that responsibility to the government at your own risk.

Regardless of where you plan to retire, the number one factor in ensuring that you can retire on your terms is your 401(k).

This article was provided by our partners at moneytips.com. Photo ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

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