National Social Security Month

In April, the Social Security Administration celebrated National Social Security Month, and highlighted the agency’s mission and purpose.

The agency is constantly expanding its online services to give you freedom and control in how you wish to explore it.

For example, you can go online to:

  1. Find out if you qualify for benefits;
  2. Use benefit planners to help you better understand your Social Security protection;
  3. Estimate your future retirement benefits to help you plan for your financial future;
  4. Retire online, or apply for Medicare quickly and easily; and
  5. Open your personal my Social Security to help you stay in control of your Social Security record.

If you currently receive benefits, you can:

  1. Change your address and phone number;
  2. Get a benefit verification letter to prove you receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicare;
  3. Start deposits or change your direct deposit information at any time;
  4. Get a replacement Medicare card; and
  5. Get a replacement Benefit Statement (SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S) for tax purposes

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have a Social Security account. If not, encourage them to establish their account, regardless of their age.
  • Make students understand that Social Security is not just for people over 65. The program provides benefits to retirees, survivors, and disabled persons.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to open a mySocial Security account, even if you are in your teens?
  2. What are the pros and cons of collecting Social Security at age 62? Under what circumstances would you choose to collect benefits before full retirement age?

Retirement Planning and Saving: Mistakes to Avoid

Millions of working Americans find it’s a challenge just to pay for their house, car, insurance, child care and other expenses each month. So how can people even think about setting aside money for their retirement 20, 30 or even 40 years away? We can’t predict the future, but we can help you learn from the past. Here’s a list of common mistakes and miscalculations on the road to financial security — wrong turns we want you to avoid.

Saving too little.  How much of your money should go to retirement savings?

When in doubt, perhaps the simplest approach is to try to put 10 to 20 percent of your income each year into money toward your retirement. Regular, automatic savings programs also help make it “painless” to set money aside.

Starting too late. The sooner you begin saving, even with relatively small amounts contributed year after year, the faster you can develop a solid retirement fund. Through the magic of compound interest, a little bit of money saved over a long period can grow to be a lot of money.

Not diversifying enough. Putting all your (nest) eggs in one basket can be a problem if the approach you take doesn’t perform well or actually loses money. Consider a mix of savings and investments that might perform reasonably well under any economic or market conditions.

Not doing your homework. A wrong move can cost you thousands of dollars in taxes, fees, penalties or bad investments. Learn as much as you can about planning and saving for retirement.

Falling for retirement rip-offs. If you get a call, letter or visit from someone peddling financial products with features that seem too good to be true, trust your instincts.  If you think you’ve been approached by a con artist or you’ve been victimized by someone offering a financial product or service, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (visit ftc.gov/complaint or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP). If the scam is internet-related, send an email to the federal government’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if anyone has started to save for retirement. What was their motivation to start early?
  • Ask students to prepare and share a list of resources that can be used to learn more about retirement planning and investing for retirement.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to start early and save for retirement even when you are in your 20’s?
  2. What should you do if a financial product and its features seem too good to be true?
  3. How even a little bit of money saved over a long period of time can grow to be a lot of money at retirement?

Reporting Changes to Social Security is Your Responsibility

If you receive benefits from Social Security, you have a legal obligation to report changes, which could affect your eligibility for disability, retirement, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  You must report any changes that may affect your benefits immediately, no later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred.  Changes you need to report range from a change of address to traveling outside the United States for 30 consecutive days.

Life changes affect your benefits.  You may be due additional payments, or you may be overpaid and have to pay Social Security back because you didn’t report the overpayment promptly. The SSI program may apply a penalty that will reduce your benefits if you fail to report a change, or if you reported the change later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred.  If you fail to report changes promptly, or if you intentionally make a false statement, Social Security may stop your SSI, disability, and retirement benefits.  Social Security may also impose a sanction against your payments.  The first sanction is a loss of all payments for six months.  Subsequent sanctions are for 12 and 24 months.

Report your change online at www.socialsecurity.gov, or by calling toll free at 1-800-772-1213.  If you are deaf or hearing impaired call TTY 1-800-325-0778.  Mail the information to your Social Security office or deliver in person.  If you receive benefits and need to change your address or direct deposit, create a Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

For more information click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov and to create their own online Social Security account. There is no fee to create a “my Social Security” account, but students must have a valid e-mail address.
  • Ask students to sign into their “my Social Security” account and obtain their benefit verification letter.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to report life changes to Social Security if you receive any benefits from Social Security?
  2. What are the consequences if you fail to report changes promptly?

What are several ways you can report the life changes to Social Security Administration?

Can the Government Get Us to Save More for Retirement?

Millions of Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement. Now the President is getting involved and has proposed a new way to help workers save more!

According to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of American workers had less than $10,000 saved for retirement. The survey also revealed that half of all workers and the majority of part-time workers didn’t receive any retirement benefits from their employer.

To encourage workers to save more, President Obama proposed the “MyRA” plan that allows workers to invest $5,500 a year in government savings bonds that earn 2% to 3% until their balance reaches $15,000. At that point, the money in the account can be rolled over to a private sector Roth IRA, where the money can continue to grow tax-free.

While MyRA accounts are seen as a first step to encourage workers to begin saving, critics argue that the tax-free withdrawals encourage workers to withdraw money before reaching retirement.

For additional statistics on how much Americans save or more information about MyRA accounts, go to http://money.cnn.com/2014/02/11/retirement/retirement-savings/index.html?section=money_pf.

Discussion Questions
1. Many people never begin saving or investing because there is never anything left over at the end of the month. How can you find the money needed to begin saving and investing?
3. Why should you begin to invest money now instead of waiting until later in life?
3. What are the advantages of a MyRA savings plan? of a Roth IRA plan?

Teaching Suggestions
You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to discuss
• Why students should develop a long-term financial plan that includes both savings and investments.
• Time Value of Money examples to show how small dollar amounts invested on a regular basic can help achieve long-term financial goals.
• Different types of retirement accounts.