What role does Social Security play in a retirement income plan?

In today’s episode of Carson Group and PIMCO’s Retirement Income Series, business journalist, CFP and Social Security expert Mary Beth Franklin provides a history lesson on the pivotal Social Security policy that saved the program in 1983. She talks about where we are today in terms of funding and what the American public needs to know about what is, for many, the only form of guaranteed income for life.

A contributing editor at InvestmentNews specializing in Social Security, retirement income and Medicare, Mary Beth has been writing about money for more than 40 years. She became a Certified Financial Planner in 2015 and is an in-demand speaker at conferences for financial professionals. She is also the author of “Maximizing Social Security Retirement Benefits” and host of the Retirement Repair Shop podcast.

Mary Beth talks with Jamie and Devin Ekberg, Senior Consultant and Education Advisor with PIMCO, about how advisors should frame Social Security as the base of a retirement income pyramid, the funding challenges it continues to face and how to solve them, what full retirement age really means, how to maximize Social Security benefits and more.

Key Takeaways

  • When to retire and when to claim Social Security benefits are two separate decisions. They do not have to occur at the same time. It might make more sense to draw down a 401(k) or IRA to fund that bridge to full retirement before claiming Social Security. The added benefit: Drawing down on qualified plans now reduces required minimum distributions.
  • The biggest shock for retirees is often how much they are paying for Medicare premiums, which is tied to their income in retirement. It’s critical to create tax-free income in retirement to ensure income stays below certain thresholds for Medicare premiums.
  • Claiming Social Security early because you fear it’s going bankrupt is the equivalent of moving all investments to cash when the market drops 30%. The only thing you’ve locked in is a loss. It’s up to advisors to provide a framework for thinking about Social Security and how to maximize it.


“The trust funding Social Security is expected to run out by 2034. That does not mean Social Security is bankrupt or that no one will get a benefit. It means there would be enough money from ongoing FICA taxes to pay about 75% of promised benefits. No one will be satisfied with that. The sooner Congress gets busy to try to fix this, the better off we will all be.” – Mary Beth Franklin


Carson Group is committed to advancing financial literacy. Schedule a consultation to learn how Carson can help you help your clients and grow your business. Visit PIMCO to learn more about the work it is doing in the retirement income planning space.

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