Counting on Social Security

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Since retirement and Social Security go hand in hand, many people count on their benefit checks to provide them with significant income when they retire. Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for benefits, and for those who do qualify, Social Security may not provide as much income as they expect. It is never too early to talk to a financial professional about Social Security and begin to form a realistic idea of what to expect from this important source of retirement income.

Qualifying for benefits
Over 95 percent of jobs today participate in the Social Security program. However, if you have worked for the government (city, state or federal), railroads or public schools, you should look into whether you are covered. If your employer does not require you to pay Social Security taxes and provides you with a pension, you may find your Social Security benefits are reduced or even eliminated.

  • The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces benefits for retirees who are entitled to a pension from a job that didn’t participate in the Social Security program and who also have Social Security benefits based on fewer than 30 years of covered earnings. (The reduction doesn’t apply to those with at least 30 years of covered employment.) Although the WEP reduction affects retirees and eligible dependents, it does not affect survivor benefits.
  • The Government Pension Offset (WPO) reduces the benefits of a spouse or surviving spouse of most workers who receive a pension from government employment that was not covered by Social Security.

Of course, some people work and pay Social Security taxes but never reach fully insured status — in other words, they do not earn the required 40 credits over ten years of work. If you are in this situation, it’s possible you qualify for disability benefits or you are eligible for benefits on a family member’s or ex-spouse’s earnings record.

Considering the full retirement picture
Assuming you expect to receive Social Security benefits, you still cannot count on Social Security to replace the full amount of your previous income. However, your benefits will provide a base for your retirement income. Consider these statistics for individuals and couples age 65 and older:

  • Social Security makes up 50 percent or more of total retirement income for 50 percent of married couples and 70 percent of individuals.
  • Social Security makes up 90 percent or more of total retirement income for 21 percent of married couples and 45 percent of individuals.

You will likely need to supplement your Social Security benefits with income drawn from:

  • Savings and investments (including qualified retirement plans and IRAs)
  • A pension (if you are lucky enough to have one)
  • Annuities (which can convert a portion of your savings into a guaranteed income stream you can’t outlive)

Looking to the future
If you are counting on Social Security for retirement, you’ll need a realistic idea of how much your benefit might be and how much additional income you’ll need to cover your anticipated retirement expenses. A comprehensive retirement planning discussion with a financial professional is a good place to begin identifying and addressing any apparent gap between income and expenses. A fixed annuity may be the right fit if you need to fill that income gap and help plan future expenses.

There are many unknowns, of course — inflation, health care expenses, the overall economy and even the number of years you will spend in retirement — but thoughtful planning puts you in the best position to thrive during retirement and adapt to changes as necessary.

This information is brought to you by Athene — where unconventional thinking brings innovative annuity solutions to help make your retirement dreams a reality.


Not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any governmental agency. This material contains educational information regarding the availability and details surrounding the Social Security program and is not intended to promote any product or service offered by Athene. The information represents a general understanding of the Social Security Program and should not be considered personalized advice regarding Social Security, tax, or legal advice. Details of the Social Security Program are subject to change. A tax or legal advisor should be consulted prior to making any decision. Visit for additional details.