Because Social Security is a necessary part of a comprehensive retirement strategy, there are important considerations before choosing to claim benefits. Working with a financial professional is crucial in coordinating these types of benefits. Erin Fountain discusses her approach to helping her clients take the mystery out of Social Security Benefits Planning.
Taking the Mystery Out of Social Security Benefits Planning
Interview with Mike Saunders, MBA on the Influential Entrepreneurs Podcast
Welcome to Influential Entrepreneurs, bringing you interviews with elite business leaders and experts, sharing tips and strategies for elevating your business to the next level. Here’s your host, Mike Saunders.
[00:00:16.370] – Mike Saunders
Hello, and welcome to this episode of Influential Entrepreneurs. This is Mike Saunders, the authority positioning coach. Today we have with us Erin Fountain, who is the founder and President of Suncoast Social Security Advisors Consulting and Tax Services. Erin, welcome to the program.
[00:00:31.370] – Erin Fountain
Thanks so much for having me today. I’m really excited to be here.
[00:00:34.470] – Mike Saunders
You’re welcome. And right before we started recording, we were talking about how you are right in Florida’s suncoast, and I’m right in Denver, and you’re seeing sSuncoastunshine and I’m seeing six inches of snow falling. So it’s interesting to see how different people are experiencing different things at the same moment of time. So let’s jump right in. I want to get to know you and your company, what you do to serve your clients. So give us a little bit of your background and what your entrepreneurial journey has been like to this point.
[00:01:02.270] – Erin Fountain
Sure, Mike. And thank you. Well, I have been in corporate accounting for a number of years, and at one point, my mother needed my help. So I took a little bit of an exit there. And I found out there was quite a huge universe in Social Security and Medicare and that she also had years of taxes that had not been filed. So that kind of projected me into becoming an enrolled agent before the IRS and also getting my registered Social Security analyst. And so what I do today is I help people take the mystery out of Social Security benefits planning.
[00:01:44.990] – Mike Saunders
And that’s what I really want to dive into in a second here because I think that a lot of people have a misconception and they go, oh, retirement, Social Security equals this age equals let’s check these boxes and file. And next. And there’s so much more that goes into it than that. Right. When you start talking with someone for the first time, what are some of their misconceptions similar to that where they’re like, oh, well, I just need to and you’re like, that’s one of the factors. But first, let’s back up and start with this.
[00:02:20.030] – Erin Fountain
What they need to understand, is there are really two facets when you go to file. It’s the timing. And then how do you file? Are you a spouse? Are you a survivor? All these things play into the optimal claiming so that you can get the most out of your retirement dollars under Social Security. And it’s not just about as you’re saying, oh, you pick an agent, that’s it, because there’s a lot of consequence. You can leave a lot of money on the table. When I work with folks, I say, so let’s take your circumstances. Let’s look at your work earnings history, your life expectancy. What are your plans? Do you plan to take your claiming benefits at full retirement age and work afterward, maybe you want to claim a few years early. How do all these scenarios impact your future? And that’s what I can show them. Earliest, latest and somewhere in between.
[00:03:19.310] – Mike Saunders
In engineering, I’m pretty sure that this is an engineering thing, IFTTT, if this then that so it sounds to me like when you’re giving that scenario, it’s like if you do this right here, then here’s what the result would be. And if you did that, then. So let’s talk through these. And it’s like if you go down this path. Okay, that could be good. So here’s some of the pros and cons. Well, you need to have someone that will guide you down through that path, and then that’s where that mystery comes in. Right? Because it is really not just do you want to do X, yes or no. Because there are so many factors. Like you said, are you filing as a spouse? And what about are you going to file early? Is there a benefit to filing early? Is there a detriment? Well, the benefit could be we start getting benefits sooner, but there could be a detriment. What are some of the detriments if you file early?
[00:04:09.210] – Erin Fountain
That’s exactly it. And the other thing to consider, too, is there’s more than the financial aspect. There’s also the personal aspect. So you can look at it from one side of the coin. Here’s the value in dollars. And the other side of the coin might be, well, you know, we’ve been, for instance, impacted by COVID. Generally, you want to wait as long as you can till age 70 because that’s when you get the most benefits. But some people are just too nervous. In the case of a couple, maybe the secondary earner will file early at 62, that’s going to bring some income into the home. But then the primary earner getting the most income, they’ll wait until age 70. And the beauty of that is, down the road, whatever the survivor spouse receives kind of makes up the difference in the person who claims early.
[00:05:10.930] – Mike Saunders
[00:05:11.460] – Erin Fountain
So all these things filter in together and kind of recap what you said. Planning is necessary and there’s always a consequence to your planning.
[00:05:21.350] – Mike Saunders
Yeah. Now, I am not in your realm of being certified and professional, and all of that in social security, but I’ve heard that once you make the decision, it’s pretty much irrevocable. So it’s not like you can go, I’ll do this for now, and then next year I’ll change it. And then, well, the next year something else came up. So I’m going to swap it back to so you need to know these things really well planned out ahead of time so that you make that decision. Right?
[00:05:46.830] – Erin Fountain
Well, you do have a few options, though. Let’s say we have a worker today and maybe they’re a realtor and they’ve not been doing well and they decide to take their benefits claiming age 62 just so they can have some income coming in. They can later on if their income starts to grow by the time they reach full retirement age, they can suspend those benefits. So at that point in time, even though they took a little bit of a Ding or a discount for filing early and they start say at 67 to suspend the benefits they were receiving for when they start at 62, whatever that value is, can then begin accruing 8% each year of those delayed retirement credits.
[00:06:38.190] – Mike Saunders
Because that’s one of the reasons that you would delay. You would delay from one age to the next because of the certain percent of increase in accrual over the years. But what you’re saying is in some cases, you have to do it the right way, but you can start taking some benefits and then stop and let it start accruing and then pick right back up.
[00:06:57.210] – Erin Fountain
Yes. They will begin from whatever level you’re at, at full retirement age that will begin accruing an 8% increase.
[00:07:05.370] – Mike Saunders
Excellent. Well, that’s really good to know. And again, it’s not something that you can just go, oh, you know what? I can just go to that new resource out there called Google, and I’m just going to do some searches and I’ll figure it all out. And I’m good to go on a Saturday afternoon. Well, there’s a lot more that goes into it. And I’m sure that you would have some questions that you would ask someone that really dials in deep to what they are currently experiencing or want to achieve that would help you make some recommendations for them. Can you think of something where a time where you’ve worked with the client and it was like, you know what? Because you told me this, I think that now you should consider this option, and then it really just opened up some really great things for them, maybe even uncovered benefits that you didn’t think of initially because you just asked the right questions.
[00:07:56.310] – Erin Fountain
Oh, gosh. Several years ago, I had a friend who was divorced, and she was having a hard time trying to make income come in a very difficult time for her. And I asked her, I said, well, tell me about your situation and where you stay with Social Security. It just happened that in her case, her husband was already filing he had disability with Social Security because she had been married for more than ten years and divorced for more than two, she could go ahead and file her spousal benefits and got quite a bit of increase in income coming into the home that way.
[00:08:36.990] – Mike Saunders
And me just thinking as an individual, I would have thought, well, I divorced over two years, and that’s not an option for me. So how can I make ends meet? Well, it pays to talk to and work with someone like yourself to go, here’s this formula. And if you’ve done this and you’ve waited for this and OK, let’s file. And now all of a sudden it’s like I never would have dreamed that that was possible for me. That’s really a great example.
[00:09:02.910] – Erin Fountain
And the way I can help people, too, as when they call in, I give a 15 to 20 minutes free consultation because I have to understand what their circumstances are to the extent that they will share with me and make sure that I can really add value to their circumstance. And if we feel that I can, then we set the appointment up.
[00:09:21.890] – Mike Saunders
Yeah. And it kind of makes me think too, of course, ready, aim, fire. Too many people are like fire, fire, fire, and then we’re not aiming. We’re not ready. But you’re going, ready, ready, aim, aim. Because you do need to make sure you understand every nuance to be able to make the right recommendation. In medical terms, if you do it the wrong way, it’s malpractice. You can’t just walk into the room and give a diagnosis and a prescription and you didn’t ask all the right questions. So that’s really great that you do that. And it just goes to serve your clients better. So when you think of retirement or retirement/ social security like we’re talking about here, when should someone be thinking toward that? Because I feel like a lot of people tend to just put it off and wait until the last minute. And it’s like, oh, if we had only started doing this strategy or doing this a few years earlier. So when is some optimal times to be thinking about making some moves?
[00:10:22.710] – Erin Fountain
I think at least by the age of 58 because even retirement today is still out there. It’s really good to look down that lens, look down the horizon. And if you’re working with a financial advisor or financial planner, then you can then take the analysis that I provide and walk it to them and say, here’s even a complete picture, because I work with financial providers a lot, and that helps to round out a portfolio. And then someone else might get the motivation then to go seek out and get the assistance further from a financial planner.
[00:11:04.630] – Mike Saunders
That’s a good point.
[00:11:05.500] – Erin Fountain
Yeah. As far as the age goes at 58. And sadly, there are going to be those of us who lose our spouse, and it’s going to be untimely early. Widow and widowers’ benefits start, in most cases, around age 60. Now that can be a little bit different if there’s a child at home. Other circumstances can come to play, but that’s to look beyond the scope of our conversation today. But the point is you really need to know for your retirement benefit if you encounter widow or widow’s benefit at least two years before age 60.
[00:11:43.210] – Mike Saunders
Excellent. And you mention working with other types of professionals, like financial advisors, do you support them or do they view you as a competitor? Or if you can’t do securities and investments in things, then you’re not a competitor. You’re just a support to them and their clients.
[00:12:02.650] – Erin Fountain
There’s three points to consider on that. And I think at first blush, you think, oh, you guys do compete. Well, I don’t see it that way. There is a little bit of an overlap. I don’t sell and manage securities because I’m not licensed to do so. And financial planners do have in their toolset the ability to look at Social Security. But I project it to the years of income throughout the whole life of retirement. So really what happens for the benefit of the client is they have two sets of eyes looking and planning for them. We definitely compliment each other. I don’t see this competition at all.
[00:12:43.670] – Mike Saunders
Yeah. Because typically a financial planner, even though they may speak to Social Security, it’s all framed around because we need to make these selections and elections, then we must make these financial moves. Well, that means then that they are executing on financial strategy, which is what they do. Great. But what you’re saying is you’re not licensed to do those moves and strategies, but you’re talking about the strategy of Social Security. So it’s almost like you polish up the client’s strategy blueprint and send them right back to the advisor and go, okay, here’s now everything you need to think about when executing your financial moves. And here’s the security blueprint per se. And then that would be a wonderful service. Back to the financial professional.
[00:13:32.110] – Erin Fountain
I like to look at myself as someone that is supporting them and we work in tandem together.
[00:13:37.390] – Mike Saunders
Yeah, exactly. That’s a really great point. So what are some final thoughts on if someone is thinking about I’m around 58 or maybe 60 and maybe I need to polish up what is the first step to reach out, connect with you and learn a little bit more. And then obviously you talk about the free consultation sessions. So from there, what are some of the steps forward and what they can expect in working with you?
[00:14:05.530] – Erin Fountain
What they can do is go visit my website and that is all together. SuncoastSSAdvisors.com. My number is 941-248-3638. If they visit the website they can kind of get a sense of my personality. I also have a tab on there called News, which I try and post articles about twice a month that are informative and a little bit aside of mainstream as far as what you read in the paper, I like to take a deeper dive into topics when it comes to Social Security. And if they like what they see, there are forms on there that they can either call me or respond by filling out the form, and then I will give them a callback.
[00:14:51.850] – Mike Saunders
Excellent. Well, Erin, it’s really a pleasure to have you on today talking about this really relevant topic. So thanks for coming on. And we’ll make sure to have your direct link to the website right in the show notes.
Thank you very much you’ve been listening to influential entrepreneurs with Mike Saunders to learn more about the resources mentioned on today’s show or listen to past episodes, visit www influential entrepreneurs breneursradio.com.