Is Social Security An Entitlement?

Yes. I know…this is a term that can get some people really fired up. I can understand why. After all, the term entitlement has taken on a demeaning definition that insinuates getting something that you haven’t earned or maybe even deserve.

Here’s the truth…the federal government has referred to Social Security as an entitlement program for several decades. On their website you can hundreds of uses of the word. In fact, they go so far as to explicitly state “The social security benefit programs are entitlement programs.”

So why do they refer to it this way and does it have a negative connotation?

If you examine the definition of the word entitlement, you’ll see there is no mention of welfare, charity or handouts.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as: “A government program providing benefits to members of a specified group.”

The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “something, often a benefit from the government, that you have the right to have.”

In then in the glossary of the United States Senate the word entitlement is defined as, “a federal program or provision of law that requires payments to any person or unit that meets the eligibility criteria.”

The fact is, the phrase “entitlement program” is simply a term for any government program guaranteeing certain benefits to a segment of the population who qualify for them under specific terms and conditions.

That’s exactly what Social Security is. You have to work for at least 10 years with a certain amount of earnings to be ENTITLED to your own benefit.

But in the highly politicized world that we live in, what words actually mean and the meaning given to words aren’t always the same.

Are Social Security Benefits Taxable?

Yes. If your other income exceeds certain limits you will have to pay tax on up to 85% of your Social Security benefits.

To determine how much of your benefit amount will be taxable, you need to calculate your “combined income” as defined by the SSA.

Combined income can be roughly calculated as your total income from taxable sources, plus any tax-exempt interest (such as interest from tax-free bonds), plus any excluded foreign income, plus one half (50%) of your Social Security benefit.  

If your total combined income is less than $32,000 ($25,000 for singles), none of your Social Security benefits will be taxable.

If you are married and your total combined income exceeds $32,000 ($25,000 for singles), then 50% of the excess is the amount of Social Security benefits that must be included in taxable income.

If your provisional income exceeds $44,000 (or $34,000 for singles), then 85% of the excess amount is included in taxable income. 

chart showing tax on social security benefits

To see an example of this calculation, check out my article “Taxes on Social Security” or video https://youtu.be/juj4YsXOdkc.

Continuing to Work While Collecting Social Security

Continuing to Work While Collecting Social Security

Retirement isn’t always final. Often, individuals will retire and file for Social Security and later decide they’d like to continue working for a while longer. When this happens, it typically leads to a few questions about the impact to their Social Security benefit.

One of the most common questions is, “what happens if you file for Social Security, but keep working? Could your benefits increase?”

I’ve also heard, “what if I’m making less in my ‘post-retirement’ job, could my Social Security benefit decrease?”

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Should You Take Retroactive Social Security Benefits?

retroactive social security benefits

There are some cases where you can receive retroactive Social Security benefits, usually delivered via a one-time lump sum payment when you file for your retirement benefit.

Overall, this can sound like a great deal. It might feel like a little extra, and the lump sum means you can do what you want with that money right away instead of waiting for it to come to you in monthly payments.

But are retroactive Social Security benefits truly a good thing? Here’s what you need to know to make this decision for yourself.

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Social Security Family Maximum Benefits: The Complete Guide

On paper, the Social Security system has a generous payment to beneficiaries of someone who retires, dies, or becomes disabled. But what catches many people by surprise is that there’s a limit to these payments.

The Social Security family maximum benefits rule may stop you from getting the full amount you might expect.

This article takes a very deep dive into the issue to explain both the common, well-known rules around the Social Security family maximum benefits — and the more obscure rules that cause benefits to be capped to a range of 150%-188% of a retired, deceased or disabled individual’s full retirement age benefit.

We’ll also go over the calculation, and teach you how to determine what kinds of benefits to expect in your own situation.

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3 Most Important Things to Know About the Social Security Surviving Spouse Benefit

the Social Security Surviving Spouse Benefit

The Social Security surviving spouse benefit seems easy enough to understand. But hidden in the details are small nuances that can cost you – or your loved ones – thousands of dollars in missed benefits.

If you invest the time to make sure you know the rules, you won’t end up like the 10,000 people that a 2018 Office of the Inspector General report discovered had been shortchanged by $131 million in Social Security survivor benefits.

Here, we break down what you need to know about ensuring you receive all the benefits you’re entitled to in three, easy-to-digest sections:

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How to Use Medicaid Long Term Care for Nursing Home Expense in Texas

It’s rare for me to have a guest article on my site. However, a few weeks ago, I had a meeting that disturbed me. As soon as the meeting was over I contacted Texas Elder Law Attorney John Ross and asked him to write this guide for my readers on how to use Medicaid Long Term Care to pay for nursing home expenses.

I just couldn’t see a story like this happen again.

It’s been a few weeks now, but I still think about this meeting often. Listening to the woman that I met with her and her story was heartbreaking. I felt so sorry for her — but there was nothing I could do to help her.

I’m sharing her story with you here in hopes that someone else won’t make the same mistakes.

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If You Die Young: How to Calculate Social Security Survivor Benefits (what everyone between the ages of 22-55 should know)

dying before retirement age and social security survivor benefits

Jo’s husband died when he was 44. Jo was only 43, and up until that point, they ran a successful plumbing supply business together. Jo and her husband earned a high income, and his passing left her with the burden of running a demanding business alone.

She didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about her future Social Security benefits at that point of her life. But things are different now.

Jo is about to turn 60. She’s been told that she can qualify for Social Security survivors benefits, and has also heard that the Social Security Administration has a history of miscalculating these benefits — so Jo wants to make sure she understands the math herself.

You Can’t Use the Normal Calculations to Understand Social Security Survivors Benefits

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The Maximum Social Security Benefit

Turning 66 in 2021? That means your maximum Social Security benefit is $3,113.

That’s no small sum! If you wanted to get that same amount of income from a portfolio of retirement savings you’d need A LOT of money at the beginning of your retirement.

And it could get even better for you if you waited to file for Social Security. In 2021, the maximum benefit for an individual who delayed filing for benefits until age 70 is $3,895 per month. That’s more than $45,000 per year in benefits!

With dollars like these at stake, it makes good sense to pay attention to the best filing strategies for you — and how to potentially claim the maximum Social Security benefit.

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