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Social Security Planning Questionnaire/Checklist

One thing I see over and over (both in emails from readers and in discussions on the Bogleheads forum) is that people don’t know what information they need to provide in order to get assistance with their Social Security claiming decision. In some cases, that simply means that the person providing the assistance has to request additional information. In other cases, however, it can mean that an important fact is not considered in the analysis and a poor decision is made as a result.

What follows are the pieces of information that are necessary in order to make an informed decision about when to claim Social Security.

The Basics

If you’re getting help with your Social Security decision (whether from a financial planner, the Bogleheads, or elsewhere), you will, at the very least, need to provide the following pieces of information:

  • An estimate of your primary insurance amount,
  • Your month and year of birth,
  • Whether you have filed yet for benefits of any kind, and
  • Whether you have any reason to think that your life expectancy is significantly longer or shorter than average for a person your age.

And, if you are married, you will need to provide those same pieces of information regarding your spouse.

Other Potentially Important Points

In addition to the above, there are several other pieces of information that are important to mention, if they apply to you:

  • Do you have any children under age 18, adult disabled children, or dependent parents?
  • Do you (and/or your spouse) qualify for a pension from work you did that wasn’t covered by Social Security? And if so, what is the monthly amount of that pension? And how many years of “substantial earnings” do you have from work that was covered by Social Security?
  • Will you (and/or your spouse) be working between the ages of 62 and your full retirement age? (Or between the ages of 60 and your full retirement age, if you are a widow/widower.) And if so, how much do you expect to earn per month, and when do you plan to quit working?
  • Have you had a marriage that ended? And if so, how long did it last, did it end as a result of divorce or death, and what is the PIA of that prior spouse?
  • If you are a widow(er) and have remarried, at what age did you remarry?
  • Are you or your spouse currently receiving Social Security disability benefits?

One important thing to note about the above situations is that they are often overlooked by the online Social Security planning calculators. If one of the above situations applies to you and the calculator you’re using doesn’t ask about that information, then the recommendation from the calculator is likely to be very flawed.

Want to Learn More about Social Security? Pick Up a Copy of My Book:

Social Security cover Social Security Made Simple: Social Security Retirement Benefits and Related Planning Topics Explained in 100 Pages or Less
Topics Covered in the Book:
  • How retirement benefits, spousal benefits, and widow(er) benefits are calculated,
  • How to decide the best age to claim your benefit,
  • How Social Security benefits are taxed and how that affects tax planning,
  • Click here to see the full list.

A Testimonial from a Reader on Amazon:

"An excellent review of various facts and decision-making components associated with the Social Security benefits. The book provides a lot of very useful information within small space."
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My new Social Security calculator (beta): Open Social Security