Please don’t forget to rate us on iTunes. Your ratings will make it easier for others to find us when they’re looking for investing podcasts. Just click the Apple icon link above.

Transcript

Bruno: Hi. I’m Maria Bruno, head of U.S. Wealth Planning Research here at Vanguard.

Joel Dickson: And I’m Joel Dickson, global Head of Advice Methodology at Vanguard. Welcome to our podcast series, The Planner and the Geek, in which we’ll discuss topics that are important to individual investors.

Maria Bruno: And we’ll have some fun along the way.

Maria Bruno: Welcome to the latest episode of The Planner and the Geek. Today we are going to talk about Social Security.

Joel Dickson: Oh, a topic near and dear to my heart.

Maria Bruno: Really?

Joel Dickson: Yes.

Maria Bruno: Tell us more.

Joel Dickson: I’m not taking Social Security yet.

Maria Bruno: Well, technically, you really can’t.

Joel Dickson: That’s true. But, I actually did some policy work on Social Security more than 20 years ago as part of President Clinton’s Social Security Reform Commission. They were looking at different ways of helping the funding of Social Security over the long term, so I ended up getting involved with a little bit part in that. So, Social Security is one of those things that I’ve been interested in, in many ways, my entire career.

Maria Bruno: It’s near and dear to my heart, too, because I worked with clients over the years with financial planning, and Social Security is usually one of the topics that we talk about. So I think this will be a fun discussion today.

Joel Dickson: Yes. That’s a really important point, because we start thinking about investment issues and so forth. But in terms of meeting goals and how much retirement income you have, Social Security and things like Medicare—which we talked about in the last podcast—and healthcare are important considerations in the overall planning process, right?

Maria Bruno: It’s sometimes one of those things where we don’t spend enough time thinking about it, because it seems fairly straightforward. And, in fact, it is as we dig into this a little bit more. But when we think about investing in the things you can control, when you think about financial planning, the decision-making around Social Security should get a spot at the table. Think about, what are the factors here I need to consider? How do I control the elements that go into this? This being the decision-making and the impacts of that.

Joel Dickson: Yes, exactly. And we hear about it from clients too, right?

Maria Bruno: Yes. We did some work over this past year in terms of talking to clients and getting a better understanding of what’s important to them. And everyone’s asking the same question, “What’s the best time for me to claim Social Security?” That’s the big decision point here, and we can talk today around the factors that go into that. It can get complicated. I think we’ll try to keep it a little high level today, but we’ll see. We’re probably going to go a little deep.

Joel Dickson: But it’s not just those that are at that time where they have to make that decision. It’s also top of mind for, well, how do I think about my retirement sufficiency? How much of a role does Social Security play? And somebody that’s 30–35 years old might say, “So, 30 plus years from now, is it still going to be around? How do I think about that as I’m saving for retirement?” And that’s often a big question that we see. And I do think you hear these doomsday scenarios of, “Well, I’m not planning for having any Social Security,” or something like that. That is a very unlikely event, but if you want to plan for that and be conservative, fine, then you’re safe.

Maria Bruno: I had clients who actually were very concerned about it and wanted to run simulations assuming no Social Security benefits at all for their peace of mind. Very extremist view, but nevertheless, there’s a concern out there. But the likelihood of that is probably pretty slim.

Joel Dickson: I think sometimes folks hear that the Social Security Trust Fund and its funding is going to run out of money or run out of assets at some point in the relatively near future, and they equate that to meaning there are no longer any benefits for Social Security. But those two actually are not the same thing.

Maria Bruno: Right. And, Joel, I think it’s important—even though the importance here is really thinking about when to claim Social Security—I think spending a few minutes talking about how we pay into Social Security during our working years is important. So as workers—let’s talk about employees first—the contributions are based upon a taxable wage base. In 2019, that taxable wage base cap is $132,900. So what that means is we pay 6.2% of Social Security tax up to that cap and our employers match that for a total of 12.4%.

Joel Dickson: Now, the geek economist in me would say that in effect the employees pay 12.4%. It’s just that the accounting of it is half one, half the other. But in either case, it’s most likely a depression on wages that would otherwise be able to be paid by employers who are paying in part the 6.2% to others.

Maria Bruno: Well, sure. You’re assuming that the employer would give the employee that additional 6.2%.

Joel Dickson: Well, and a lot of people do pay 12.4.

Maria Bruno: Right. Well, self-employed individuals do. So what that means is for someone who’s making say $150,000 salary, of that they would pay 6.2 of the $132,900. $17,000 roughly would not be subject to Social Security tax. So that’s how that works.

Joel Dickson: You know, this is great when you do math. We’ve got to do more of this.

Maria Bruno: I think they need to hear me do math a little bit as opposed to always hearing you. All right, let’s move on.

Joel Dickson: Well, I do think it’s important to put into context how big Social Security is, and important in the overall environment. Social Security payments of roughly $1 trillion—according to the Social Security Administration last year—represent about 24% of the federal budget and are paid out to about 63 million beneficiaries, of which 42 million are retired workers and then another 21 million or so are eligible for Social Security through other forms. So it is a huge program and source of income for many in retirement.

Maria Bruno: So we’re doing a little role reversal today. I’m doing the math and you’re doing the fun facts.

Joel Dickson: Exactly. It’s only fair we switch it up every now and then. So, Social Security is such an important part of everyone’s retirement plan that we did think it was important to share what we have learned through the work that we have done. We’ve created a dedicated section on Vanguard’s website about Social Security, what it is, and the decisions that need to be made. You’ll hear today some of what we learned. Obviously, we’d recommend for additional information going to vanguard.com for a more comprehensive discussion. But we’re going to try something a little bit different—let’s apologize to David Letterman to begin with. We’re going to give a top ten list of what you should know about Social Security. Are you ready for this, Maria?

Maria Bruno: I am. I don’t know if our listeners are, but I am.

Joel Dickson: I know they’re waiting with bated breath. Oh my goodness, what are the top ten things I need to know about Social Security?

Maria Bruno: Well, we did say we were going to make the Social Security discussion fun and informative.

Joel Dickson: This is true. Now unlike the usual top ten lists, we’re going to reveal the number one first—which I already alluded to—which is that all of this information can be found on Vanguard’s website and is tailored to what we were hearing from clients and reactions to that.

Maria Bruno: So does this mean we have nine instead of ten?

Joel Dickson: No, we have ten! It’s just that we’re going to repeat number one a few times, right?

Maria Bruno: All right.

Joel Dickson: So that’s the number one. Without further ado, Maria, what’s number ten?

Maria Bruno: You can get estimates of your Social Security benefits by going to the Social Security Administration website, which is ssa.gov. So before you do anything around Social Security, your best bet is to go to the Social Security Administration website to get your estimates.

Joel Dickson: I think that’s really important because there are lots of Social Security calculators and estimators. You can go and search the web and find all sorts of things. Why go to the ssa.gov site?

Maria Bruno: Because you said it right there—they’re estimators. The Social Security website will actually have my earnings history and my specific numbers to really give me a true calculation as opposed to an estimation.

Joel Dickson: Yes, and it can also then present you with some different choices based on your actual work history, right?

Maria Bruno: Right. So it gives you three estimates. First, how much you would collect at age 62, which is the earliest that most people can collect. The other is full retirement age, which is between ages 66 and 67 currently, depending on when you were born. Then age 70, which is the latest age that you can start to collect benefits. And certainly if you’re married, you would want to go through this for both spouses, and we’ll talk more about that as well.

Joel Dickson: So that’ll give you a good sense of how much you’ll collect each month if you start at those three different ages. But you’re not limited to just 62 or full retirement age.

Maria Bruno: No. You can do it at any time in that window. And, we’ll talk about this, full retirement age is when you get your full benefits. If you retire early, then benefits are reduced.

Joel Dickson: Yes, and that leads to number nine.

Maria Bruno: Hold on. I’ve got some fun facts.

Joel Dickson: Wait, I want to go to number nine.

Maria Bruno: Not yet, hold on.

Joel Dickson: Oh, you have fun facts.

Maria Bruno: I do, actually. So given that you have this decision between age 62 and 70, what’s the most popular age that individuals claim Social Security benefits?

Joel Dickson: I think it’s 63.

Maria Bruno: Really? No, it’s 62. Oh, you led right into that. Actually, almost a third of individuals—and this is according to the Social Security Administration website—34%, and I think this was for 2018, claimed at age 62. Only 4% actually claimed at age 70, which is the latest point that you can.

Joel Dickson: And we’re going to talk about why you might think about that differently, right? And there are some benefits, but there are also some real risks in claiming it at 62 when you’re first eligible.

Maria Bruno: So now we can move on to number nine.

Joel Dickson: Oh, thank you. So number nine—and it’s related to those fun facts that you just provided, Maria—is the longer you wait to collect, the more you’ll receive. A neat feature of Social Security is that the benefits increase by a steady percentage for each month that you delay your start date. In fact, that’s actually the equivalent of an 8% annualized benefit, if you will, for delaying. And that’s 8% real, so after inflation.

Maria Bruno: Right, plus inflation.

Joel Dickson: Exactly. Where else can you get an 8% real return on an investment, if you think of it from an investment standpoint? Now, of course, if you pass away while you’re delaying Social Security, it means you’ve gotten nothing. But this ability to delay if you are able has a very significant potential payoff.

Maria Bruno: It does. And when you think about it in the context of fixed income—a stream of payments throughout your lifetime—it’s likened to an annuity. In fact, it’s the best annuity that you can get in the marketplace today.

Joel Dickson: Yes, the cheapest.

Maria Bruno: Right.

Joel Dickson: And by doing so, it also provides longevity protection, because it is what we would call a life annuity—the payments over your life. If you happen to live longer than average, or longer than you had planned for in terms of your planning horizon, then you have this monthly income at a higher real rate—because Social Security adjusts for inflation every year—as well as this benefit of delaying. It gives you that protection over the long run of “outliving your resources” potentially.

Maria Bruno: Right, and it also has an impact on spousal benefits—which we’ll talk about.

Joel Dickson: We’ll get to that, right?

Maria Bruno: This is really hard to stick with the top ten. 

Joel Dickson: But at least it’s leading right in—it’s a perfect lead-in.

Maria Bruno: True, and that was not by design. So, number eight—your marital status. Whether you’re married, never married, divorced, or a surviving spouse determines the type of benefits that you’re eligible for. These do get complicated. I would suggest for those individuals that are interested in learning more, to go to our website to learn more. But generally speaking, if you’re married you are entitled to 50% of your spouse’s benefits. And, really, it’s whether—if you have an earnings history—it’s the greater of the two.

Joel Dickson: Right. You don’t get it on top of.

Maria Bruno: No. That’s double-dipping.

Joel Dickson: Well, there are opportunities at times. But, you either get your benefit or you can get 50% of your spouse’s benefit in that situation.

Maria Bruno: Right. Then if you’re divorced—if you were married for at least ten years or divorced for at least two and you haven’t remarried—then you may also be entitled to 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefits as well.

Joel Dickson: That might be a relevant situation for some.

Maria Bruno: And then if you’re a surviving spouse, you may be able to collect as early as age 60 based upon the deceased spouse’s record. So you can see there are some complexities here, some nuances.

Joel Dickson: Yes, very much so. And it sounds like a lot of planning opportunity between marital status, partner’s wage history, your own, what we talked about just before about delaying Social Security. There’s been some work done both from a planning standpoint and also from an academic standpoint, that these decisions around Social Security and claiming and delay can really make a significant difference in one’s lifetime income and wealth accumulation. To a married couple, the choice between delaying and how you take the spousal benefits can easily make a difference of $100,000 over the lifetime—different ways of approaching that for a middle-income family.

Maria Bruno: Yes, it’s interesting. When you think about Social Security, there is a behavioral element here—

Joel Dickson: Absolutely.

Maria Bruno: With us as human beings in terms of, “I paid into the system during my working years. Why wouldn’t I take it as soon as I’m eligible, because I’m not really sure.” There’s this component of wanting to start getting benefits without really thinking through the numbers and the long-term impact for both an individual and a married couple as well.

Joel Dickson: We see this in many other places. “When I’m first eligible, I’m taking it regardless of what it is,” as opposed to where there might be a benefit for delaying.

Maria Bruno: Yes. There’s the behavioral component, but then also the financial planning component in that if you are retired and you have spending needs, if you delay Social Security then you have to fill that gap with something else. That may mean drawing down your assets—which in many situations can be very sage advice. It’s just a matter of understanding that interplay.

Joel Dickson: Yes, the decision around Social Security in many ways is like that old marshmallow test where give a toddler one marshmallow and you say, “If you wait five minutes, we’ll give you another marshmallow.” And a lot of people just eat that one marshmallow. They can’t wait the five minutes for the second marshmallow. I might have been part of that camp.

Maria Bruno: Only you would use a marshmallow analogy with Social Security.

Joel Dickson: What’s wrong with marshmallows? Come on. You can just yell, “S’more! I want some more.” Anyway, number seven—there are several factors that can also reduce your Social Security payment, so you want to pay close attention to them. In particular, there are tax effects, both potentially at the federal level and the state level, as well as interactions with collecting a government pension.

We don’t want to spend too much time on these, because the website will explain all of these in detail and it starts getting into a lot of complexity at times. But one of the big things that we often see—and it gets to the point that you were making just a moment ago, Maria, about people tending to take when they are first eligible for Social Security—is that the amount of your Social Security benefit before your full retirement age can be reduced by working in that period between 62 and whatever your full retirement age is. So we talk about how working longer is supposed to be good, but if you’re already collecting on Social Security, it actually has the potential of reducing—and can be significantly reducing—your Social Security payments.

Maria Bruno: Right, so think twice. If you’re working, think twice about collecting benefits before age 70.

Joel Dickson: Or full retirement age.

Maria Bruno: Yes, or full retirement age.

Joel Dickson: And then, in addition, the federal government does tax up to 85% of your benefits. That doesn’t mean 85% of your total amount. It means 85% of your amount is subject to tax, which might be taxed at a 12% rate or a 22% rate. It doesn’t mean that 85% of Social Security is gone, and 15% is what you get to keep. But it’s important to recognize that a lot of your Social Security benefit can be taxed based on the income that you have in retirement.

Maria Bruno: All right, so, Joel, that was a very long-winded way to say that the federal government can tax up to 85% of the benefits. Then 13 states also tax Social Security benefits. So it’s really important to think about this not just from the federal tax standpoint but also the state tax standpoint.

Joel Dickson: Thankfully though—at least in Pennsylvania where we both reside—if we both reside here in retirement, Pennsylvania does not tax Social Security benefits.

Maria Bruno: True—and if they don’t change the taxation rules by the time we retire.

Joel Dickson: Always a risk, yes. But I think it’s also important that Medicare premiums also affect your Social Security payments. And Medicare premiums can be tied to income and all these other complexities as well, but certain Medicare premiums are paid out of Social Security payments, so you get a net amount from that.

Maria Bruno: Correct, yes. That’s an important point too. Leads to number six—you’re eligible for Social Security at age 62, but you’re not eligible for Medicare until you turn 65. There’s an important nuance here in that if you retire before age 65 and if you were receiving health insurance through your employer, you’ll have to arrange for your own coverage until you’re Medicare-eligible. So if you’re collecting Social Security before you turn 65, you’ll automatically be enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65.

Joel Dickson: Yes. So we’re already talking about a ton of different ages and different decision points. There’s 62, 65, full retirement age—which is somewhere around 66 or 67, depending on when you were born—and 70. I can see why this gets complicated.

Maria Bruno: I think it’s important to decouple Social Security claiming from retirement age. So you don’t always have to claim Social Security when you retire. You have a retirement decision and then you have a Social Security claiming decision, and the implications of both of those decisions are important in isolation and together.

Joel Dickson: Although we didn’t say it explicitly with the previous number seven on the list, I’ll say it explicitly now. It’s usually the case that if you haven’t retired yet, you probably don’t want to take Social Security at age 62—simply because of the “penalty” or the reduction in the Social Security payment for wage income prior.

Maria Bruno: Right, for the earnings. That’s a good rule of thumb.

Joel Dickson: And that’s a very different issue than if you’re working post your full retirement age because then you don’t have that same trade-off. There are four things that could decrease your Social Security payments, but number five on our list actually increases your payments. So number five—Social Security, as we’ve already talked about, acts as an income annuity, but one that’s adjusted for inflation.

I think a lot of times we hear the concept of annuities and people say, “That’s a complicated, tricky-to-understand insurance product.” The idea, though, behind annuities are guaranteed income is you have a regular periodic payment in exchange for an investment. And with Social Security, you get that regular monthly payment, but each year that monthly payment increases by an inflation factor that is meant to represent the increase in the cost of living and, therefore, that’s adjusting.

Maria Bruno: And for 2019, that COLA was 2.8%.

Joel Dickson: COLA? I like Cola.

Maria Bruno: Cost-of-living adjustment.

Joel Dickson: Oh, cost-of-living adjustment.

Maria Bruno: All of us like a Cola, Joel, yes.

Joel Dickson: Absolutely. When the number is lower like it has been the last several years—is it a Diet Cola?

Maria Bruno: Sure.

Joel Dickson: I’m just wondering. Look, we got Maria to laugh.

Maria Bruno: I can’t even look at you today.

Joel Dickson: She can’t even look at me—yes!

And Social Security acts like what we often term within the annuity world as a life annuity, which is that you’re guaranteed to collect until your death. But that payment or that increase for inflation, if you’re retired for 30 years, that is a meaningful difference. If you just had the same amount today in what we would call nominal terms—let’s say $1,000 today per month and a $1,000 30 years from now per month—that is actually in many ways a real decline in your ability to consume and have a similar standard of living over that time. That inflation adjustment is really important.

Maria Bruno: Let’s talk about our next one, and this is number four—talking about your health. If your health is pretty good, you have a good family history in terms of longevity, then it may make sense to think about delaying Social Security. We get lots of questions around this one. And sometimes individuals think through this in terms of a break-even analysis—will I get more from Social Security by collecting earlier, but I get it for longer? Or does it make sense to wait until later, even though I may potentially get it for a short period of time? So this whole thought about break-even analysis. But the tough part with this is we’re talking about a variable that no one really has control over—which is our life expectancy.

Joel Dickson: Yes, it has a lot of uncertainty. That break-even analysis is a very investment-focused way of looking at the decision.

Maria Bruno: Yes, it traditionally has been.

Joel Dickson: And oftentimes when you think about—and we mentioned Social Security as a longevity protection—there are investment approaches to Social Security, but then also these insurance and, as you mentioned before, behavioral aspects. And all of this interacts. So that break-even analysis often becomes in many ways very personal as opposed to—as I would prefer it—the rigid, analytical, geek-based approach to making that decision.

Maria Bruno: Yes, but I would argue that Social Security is a very personalized decision in terms of when you claim.

Joel Dickson: Yes, exactly. For another reason, waiting is often a good idea, but is often overlooked—and that is number three on the list. Number three is if you’re married, the longer you and your spouse wait to collect, the larger the surviving spouse’s Social Security payments will be. So now we’re just adding another layer of complexity when we’ve got a household that this joint decision can lead to, again, different planning options, different scenarios, and so forth. So there’s yet another aspect to it. And it’s important to plan for that phase of retirement when—I don’t know how delicately we can put this—just one of you is around and collecting Social Security, because for every month you and your spouse wait before you start to collect, the more the surviving spouse will collect in those later years.

Maria Bruno: That’s kind of the insurance aspect of Social Security, right?

Joel Dickson: Yes. Exactly.

Maria Bruno: Okay, so we talked a lot about Social Security mechanics, what to think about, but not so much about once I’ve made the decision, how do I actually pull the trigger? So number two—you can file for Social Security benefits online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security Administration office. On Vanguard’s website we provide a link where you can find your local Social Security office, but most of this can also be done online as well. The one exception I will add is that if you are filing for survivor benefits, then you need to do that in person.

Joel Dickson: We talked before about going to the Social Security website to estimate your benefits, because they have your actual wage history. This is one where there are a number of calculators—estimators—that can help with the scenario analysis of different claiming strategies that aren’t necessarily as readily available from the Social Security website. There are a number of them to be able to at least do the numbers. Now, again, if it gets back to this behavioral personal decision, then it’s—

Maria Bruno: Yes. I think it’s important to run the numbers first and then think about it in the context of your personal decision.

Joel Dickson: Oh, good, the planner’s back.

Maria Bruno: She’s always here.

Joel Dickson: Exactly. Well, that is a lot to remember, right? But you don’t actually have to remember anything that we have said today—that’s a good reminder for every podcast, isn’t it? Except that—and reiterating number one on our list, which we spoiled at the top of the podcast—which is all of this information about Social Security that we’ve shared is readily available on Vanguard’s website, and was put there in response to the questions that we were getting from clients about what was most important in thinking about Social Security and the decisions. So much so that we put a dedicated website out there—part of our website—in order to do it.

Maria Bruno: Yes, and, Joel, the website is vanguard.com/social_security.

Joel Dickson: Terrific.

Maria Bruno: So you can certainly go to vanguard.com and search by the term, but for those that want to go directly, it’s vanguard.com/social_security.

Joel Dickson: And that website—as we’ve talked about some of the complexities—also provides a worksheet that can walk you step-by-step through making the best possible Social Security decision based on your circumstances.

Maria Bruno: Yes. I think it’s really good education, and education is key when you go to schedule an appointment for the office. You can go in there with this information and then talk through it with someone to make sure that you understand it and can make the best decision for your own personal situation.

Joel Dickson: Absolutely. So, we talked about the motivation for what we did with further information to help clients and folks just generally going to Vanguard’s website on this topic. But as we mentioned, this is really a topic that comes up in a lot of different ways from clients. And we receive questions on Social Security all the time, so I think it’s actually worth a couple of moments to address a couple of client questions on Social Security. I’ll actually start with one that we had received from—the initials are F.C. F.C. asks, “As retirees both collecting Social Security and pensions, how do we factor those into the thought process regarding allocating other funds to stocks and bonds?” So it’s really an asset allocation interaction. How to think about Social Security and pension income in thinking about one’s asset allocation? What are your thoughts?

Maria Bruno: This is a good one; we talk about this a lot. The question here is, it’s an income stream—and it’s a guaranteed income stream—but does that mean that I can consider this as a government bond in my portfolio? So is it a fixed income asset that pays me a monthly income? In essence, it is.

So for some investors—given the fact that they have this guaranteed income component—they can consider it as part of their bond portfolio, and they could potentially go a little bit more aggressive on the remaining assets of their portfolio, depending upon their goals. The flip side is you might have a more conservative investor who feels that they don’t need to take the risk, because they don’t have to. But I certainly think that you can make the case for thinking about a fixed income payment such as Social Security or pensions as a bond-like investment.

Joel Dickson: And the upshot of that is it’s thinking of your overall portfolio in context, and include in the Social Security or even other pension information. In some ways, it’s not unlike—or it’s at least somewhat similar to—the concept of if you have regular wage income during your working years, and that would be expected to continue hypothetically, should you consider that into your overall portfolio asset allocation? And in many ways, Social Security is that income that you’re getting from that piece. So, yes, a lot of people tend to separate Social Security and their other investment portfolio. But as you said, it really needs to be thought about together. However you end up thinking about it, it needs to be thought about together because it’s all of those resources together that you’re drawing on for your retirement income needs.

Maria Bruno: So, I would add one more to this—even though it wasn’t a direct question—in terms of, I’m a retiree and I’ve already started collecting benefits. Does that mean that I don’t need to think about this anymore? Is it a once and done decision?

Joel Dickson: Well, that’s Joel’s mom’s question.

Maria Bruno: Oh, did she write in?

Joel Dickson: Yes.

Maria Bruno: Because you weren’t answering her questions directly?

Joel Dickson: Yes, exactly.

Maria Bruno: She had to write in—

Joel Dickson: She had to write in. She was hoping to get your perspective instead of listening to me. No, but that is exactly it. What do I need to think about—and my mom will ask me about this—as a retiree collecting Social Security that is relevant for this discussion? And that’s one where I often talk with her about—if some of this is about the tax situation as we had talked about earlier, up to 85% of the benefits could be taxable income.

Maria Bruno: Correct.

Joel Dickson: There’s some potential financial planning around those elements. When we talk about things such as Roth IRA conversions, being smart about or strategies around RMD management, or generating income from your portfolio, one of those considerations would be does it change the taxability of your Social Security so that you’re looking at it from an integrated standpoint? Because one thing that you do in one part of your portfolio may make your Social Security benefits more taxable and, therefore, it could offset in part what you were trying to do.

Maria Bruno: Right. So it’s not the benefits themselves. The benefits themselves will potentially reset every year due to a cost-of-living adjustment. Beyond that, it’s what is the interplay of the Social Security income with the rest of your financial planning picture, or the rest of your income for that year, and is there any decision-making around that? Not bad advice for your mom.

Joel Dickson: Yes, just trying to think about all those interactions. And depending on where your levels of other income are, those could be more or less important. It really is yet another one of those complications that we’ve been talking about in the context of all of these decisions.

Maria Bruno: So, Joel, we’ve covered a lot. I think before we go, it’s a good reminder to say that Social Security really is—as we alluded to here—part of a comprehensive retirement plan. It’s not just decision-making in and of itself. It is an important stream of income throughout your lifetime. So it’s really important to think through the decision-making variables, make the best decision for your own personal situation, and then monitor that going forward. As we had mentioned, we have information on vanguard.com. Again, that URL is vanguard.com/social_security. I think that it provides a lot of really good education. There’s the Social Security Administration website, ssa.gov. And then certainly if individuals go through this and want to learn more, we have an advisory practice here at Vanguard where you can actually talk to an advisor and they can help put a plan together.

Joel Dickson: And in that situation, because we have more information on you and you’re talking to that advisor—more customized and so forth—there’s some recommendations that might be more tailored.

Maria Bruno: Yes, and that really is where you get into the holistic picture here in terms of tying it into the entire retirement plan.

Joel Dickson: I agree. It’s a fun topic—well, at least I find it fun. It’s always good to talk about Social Security.

Maria Bruno: It is. And it’s important at any stage in life just to think about it.

Joel Dickson: And, as always, I want to thank the listeners. If there are comments, questions, topics, please leave us a comment in whatever venue or vehicle you end up listening to us. We do take them very seriously—both the positive and the opportunity areas. We like the engagement from our podcast listeners, and we look forward to the next time that we talk.

Maria Bruno: Joel, next month, actually, we are doing an investor Q&A session. We’ve gotten a plethora of questions throughout our series, so we’re going to address some of those questions next month. So keep them coming.

Joel Dickson: Plethora. Wow! Word of the day calendar?

Maria Bruno: Was that not a good word to use?

Joel Dickson: No, it was a perfect word to use.

Maria Bruno: It’s a nice word.

Joel Dickson: A plethora of ideas around Social Security.

Maria, until next time. And we’ll be back here talking some more on investment and planning issues, right?

Maria Bruno: Yes.

Joel Dickson: Sounds good. Thank you for listening.

Maria Bruno: We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Planner and the Geek. Just a reminder that you can find more episodes of The Planner and the Geek on iTunes and on vanguard.com.

Joel Dickson: Or simply subscribe to our series and you won’t miss an episode. And please don’t forget to rate us on iTunes. Your ratings will make it easier for others to find us when they’re looking for investing podcasts. Please join us next time for another episode of The Planner and the Geek.

Notes

All investments are subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.

The information presented in this podcast is intended for educational purposes only and does not take into consideration your personal circumstances or other factors that may be important in making investment decisions.

© 2019 The Vanguard Group, Inc. All rights reserved.