It won’t be long before “take me out to the ballgame” is sung in Cobb County at a brand new Sun Trust Ball Park down the road. It always baffled me why we sing that song when we are already there. The same thing can be said for semi-retirees who choose to take Social Security while continuing to work part-time. As we make more to but more peanuts, cracker jacks, and Braves tickets to usher in the new park, don’t forget Uncle Sam wants to settle a score and implore you to pay taxes that can take as much as half of your gross wages. In most cases, money is not everything but it does encourage relatives to stay in touch. In this case, you should consult with a Master Plan Retirement Social Security Specialist, before talking to Uncle Sam.
The 2017 earnings test limits are published and if you make more than $16, 920 at full retirement age, the government will withhold $1 for every $2 in earnings above the limit. The numbers double for a couple filing jointly and needless to say, thrust us into the 50 percent plus tax bracket, a place we may not have seen even during the years we worked full-time. If the year of turning full retirement age finds your income exceeding $44,880 , the government only withholds $1 for every $3 earned. Somehow this goes against the grain of the Protestant work ethic many of us were raised with but with nearly a $20 trillion deficit, it is obvious the Feds need the revenue so it is not going to get any better. That’s why a retirement income plan is so important
But you don’t “lose” money to the earnings test until death does you part. Your benefits will be recalculated at your full retirement age and increased to make up for the months when your benefits were withheld because of the earnings test. However, those dollars are worth less because of inflation and one may not know if the test becomes more stringent in future tax law. If a stealth bomb lands in a forest, it will make a sound so anyone that pursues a strategy of make it today and make it up tomorrow should be aware that the earnings test can be changed for better or worse. In addition, according to MasterPlan Advisor, Brian Adams, “if a client dies, then the lost earnings are gone as well”
Now for solutions:

  1. Since the test is done on gross earnings and pretax contributions to a 401(k) or IRA won’t help, defer as much in earnings toward the end of the year to 2018. Many employers will allow this strategy.
  2. Avoid any investments or savings vehicles where a portion of tax-advantaged income will be taxed such as private- purpose municipal bonds used to build stadiums and airports. If income is needed now, consider an annuity with an income rider which will protect principal as well and provide a lifetime income.
  3. Establish a deferred compensation plan if self-employed or employed by a small business owner rewarded or incentivized by additional income in the future. A life policy or annuity is ideal for the purpose of tax deferral as well.

According to the Insured Retirement Institute Study “Boomers 2016”, Baby Boomers are now more concerned with changes in Social Security rather than outliving income. We are seeing Social Security concerns in Metro Atlanta too. Those fears have been compounded by the change in administration even with the President Trump’s assurances not to tamper with Social Security. A recent obituary read that a farmer had a heart attack while helping a cow in labor. The paper said that the “man died while giving birth to a calf” Let’s hope that a zealous need for revenue does not give birth to a reduced incentive to work in 2017.
Advisory services offered through MasterPlan Retirement Consultants, Inc. Insurance services offered through Fricks and Associates, Inc. Tax services offered through MasterPlan Tax Services, Inc. The aforementioned are affiliated companies.  MasterPlan Retirement Consultants is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency.