The CPA's Guide to Social Security Planning

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Social Security retirement benefits have become an integral part of financial and retirement planning for most Americans. According to a recent report by the Trustees of the Social Security program, 54 million people received some type of Social Security benefit last year, totaling over $700 billion. And these numbers are likely to increase over the next 15–20 years, as Baby Boom generation clients retire.

Although an ideal retirement scenario does not depend solely on Social Security, the importance of Social Security as part of a comprehensive retirement plan cannot be ignored. To effectively counsel clients, therefore, advisers must be aware of what the Social Security program can and cannot do.

This guide is a practical resource that blends information and planning guidance by providing actual client questions and their respective responses. It includes important tips that you can use in your practice right away.

Actual client questions featured in the guide include

  • At what age can I begin collecting social security benefits?
  • What happens if I retire and start collecting social security retirement benefits, then go back to work later?
  • Will my social security retirement benefits be reduced because of my self-employment income?
  • Should I start collecting benefits at age 62 or wait until age 66 or 70?
  • When can, or should, my spouse begin taking the spousal benefit?
  • Are there any special considerations for widows and widowers?

There are many resources that provide Social Security facts or advice, including those from the Social Security Administration. However, few are oriented towards professionals seeking to offer guidance to clients. This guide will be a valuable tool to use in giving your clients advice on Social Security benefits and how to integrate those benefits into a well-rounded retirement plan.

The CPA's Guide to Social Security Planning is available free in electronic format to Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Section members. Click here to access your copy. For more information about the PFP Section, click here. For PFP Section membership information, click here.

In cooperation with the AICPA Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Division, the AICPA PFP Executive Committee Elder Planning Task Force, and the AICPA Private Company Practice Section.

System Requirements

About the Authors

Theodore J. Sarenski, CPA/PFS, CFP(R)

Ted is the principal author of this guide. He is the president and CEO of Blue Ocean Strategic Capital, LLC. More than 30 years as a CPA and more than 20 years as a financial planner, plus extensive experience in individual taxation and estate planning, enable him to bring a unique dimension to wealth management. In addition to working directly with clients, Ted is recognized locally and nationally as a financial planning expert. He speaks regularly at conferences across the country and appears weekly on local television. He serves as chair of AICPA's PFP Executive Committee Elder Planning Task Force and also is active in the New York State Society of CPAs. The AICPA PFP Division nominated him for the 2010 Distinguished Service Award for contributions to the profession.

About the Publisher

American Institute of CPAs

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, with more than 418,000 members in 143 countries, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting.

The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, and offers specialized credentials for qualified professionals who concentrate on personal financial planning; forensic accounting; business valuation; and information management and technology assurance. With The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), it offers the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, which sets the global benchmark for quality and recognition in management accounting.

The AICPA and CIMA also make up the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), which represents public and management accounting globally, advocating on behalf the public interest and advancing the quality, competency and employability of CPAs, CGMAs and other accounting and finance professionals worldwide.

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and Ewing, NJ.