HOLLYWOOD, FLA. - If you feel like you don’t know enough about Social Security, you better start brushing up. Many of your clients are probably baby boomers, and Social Security strategy will be a reason that many of them dump you in favor of another advisor.

That was the message from Gail Buckner, a financial planning specialist from Franklin Templeton, when she spoke at the Bank Insurance & Securities Association annual conference in Florida this week.

Her session was entitled “Advanced Social Security Strategies: Maximize Your Clients’ Retirement Income Options.” She cited the usual challenges in planning for retirement income: fewer people have pension plans; they have multiple and confusing defined contribution plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs and so forth; they want to help their kids, grandkids or parents, financially; and they have lifestyle expectations that aren’t realistic. But the biggest challenge, she said, is that they’re living longer. Just in the past 10 years, the number of Americans who live to be 100 increased 43%, she said, citing a story from The Wall Street Journal.

She used two hypothetical couples (in a nod to the boomers in the audience, they were named Bob & Carol and Ted & Alice) to illustrate the various options and the consequences of their decisions. And there were two recurring themes in those examples: The question of when to start collecting benefits is a difficult one with many considerations and is not the same as the question of when to stop working; and the state of the Social Security system is not as dire as is commonly believed. (Bank Investment Consultant had a series of coverage recently called Simplifying Social Security that highlighted some of these same ideas.)

As just one example of this, she said that a 2.67% increase in the payroll tax would solve the problem completely for the next 75 years. And since that tax is half-paid by employers, she says that continuous studies show that people would be willing to pay an extra 1.3% to make this problem go away. But with the contentious state of things in Washington, an extra 1.3% tax on anything is not likely at the moment, she said.

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