#1 The Only Certainty in Life is Uncertainty

#2 Life is Not Fair

#3 You Must Play the Hand Your Dealt

If I only knew ___________!  It is always easy to look back and say if only I had ________.  Since we do not have that luxury, the only way to navigate life is to make decisions and live our daily lives with what we do know today.  To study, to be open minded, to look at the facts and to make rational decisions, but in the end knowing there is No Certainty!

Claiming Social Security

I always start with one simple statement “If you tell me your checkout date, I’ll tell you when to claim Social Security benefits!”  That is the $64,000 Question all advisors face when assisting clients in determining when to claim Social Security benefits and how much they can and should claim as a percentage of their other assets?  The greatest concern of most retirees is running out of money before running out of time and most people greatly under estimate their own life expectancy!

Recent Cases:


Tom, recently turned 66 and we decided to claim survivorship benefits on his ex wife whom he was married for over 10 years, while postponing his own greater benefits until 70.  Since Tom’s mother is still alive in her 90’s this made the most sense.  Tom retired from his job and his checks from Social Security started coming in as projected.  Four months after his checks started, Tom requested that we meet to discuss his Social Security options.  When we met he informed me that he only has 3 – 4 months to live.

We reached out to Social Security and informed them that we intended to switch to his own record immediately and retroactively request higher back benefits to his 66th birthday.

Elaine & Gayle

Elaine and Gayle are both divorced, have remained unmarried and were both married for over 10 years.  Elaine was born 12/15/1953 while Gayle was born 1/21/1954.  In both circumstances I recommended that they postpone their own Social Security benefits until they reach their 70th birthday’s since they are both healthy and longevity runs in their families.  When Elaine turns 66 on December 15, 2019 she can claim Spousal Benefits on her ex husband (projected $1,200/mo.) while she postpones her own benefits until age 70.  On the other hand since Gayle was born after 1/1/54 she cannot receive spousal benefits on her ex husbands record, if she were to file at 66 she must take the greater of her own benefits or her spousal (50% of ex husband’s 66 check).

Elaine will receive $14,400/yr.  ($57,600 over the 4 years) while Gayle will receive NOTHING should they both decide to postpone their own benefits until age 70.

NOTE:  Should either of the ex husbands die prior to Elaine or Gayle turning 70 they can both receive Survivorship Benefits (100% of ex husbands benefits) while they wait to claim their own (1/1/54 law change date does not affect survivorship benefits).


Joan called last week based upon the recommendation of her CPA in Austin.  Joan turned 70 last October and had not yet claimed Social Security benefits.  When I asked her why she didn’t claim, she commended that she was letting the amount grow.  When I informed her that they delayed credits stopped at age 70 and there was no benefit to waiting, only loss!

We were able to retroactively claim 6 months back benefits thus we were able to get her back to her birthday without losing any benefits.

NOTE:  I asked Joan if she was ever married and she yes, but that she has been divorced over 20 years.  She was married for 18 years, thus she could have claimed divorced benefits on her ex husband when she turned 66.  He also passed away 2 years ago so she could have received Survivorship Benefits at that time.  Bottom line — Since we can only go back 6 months, which we already did, she lost over $50,000 in benefits!


As a friend my mine says every Friday morning at our Men’s Faith Sharing session, “Thank you Lord for another day not promised.”

Try living in a constant STATE of CONTENTMENT!  Being Thankful for all our blessings and not taking any day or person for granted!


Live in a constant state of contentment!

Dave Zander, CFP®