The Social Security Income Planning Advisor

What Investment in Education, Tools & Technology Will I Need to Make?

By Martha Shedden and Frank Horath

Mr. Horath is the author of the eBook, “How to Grow Your Financial Practice with Social Security Income Planning,” and a Social Security Specialist . He is the Principal of ClientFirst Financial, an independent firm. Connect with him by e-mail:   Visit
Martha Shedden is an associate and Social Security specialist with ClientFirst. Connect with her by e-mail:   Visit

Part 3 in a 4-part series

Overview – Social Security & Pareto’s 80/20 Rule

Distilling and utilizing the key Social Security income concepts, practice management tools, and marketing techniques can help financial advisors significantly grow their practices. We have taken the liberty of interpreting the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule or the law of the vital few) to Social Security income planning. It is our contention that the most relevant 20% of the Social Security income planning rules, concepts and techniques can help advisors resolve nearly 80% of their client cases.

By learning the critical 20% of concepts and techniques, and clearly communicating this information to your clients and strategic alliances, you will gain more financial advisory market share. By one estimate, the Social Security POMS (Program Operating Manual System) prior to going online could have been over 30,000 pages. For all intents and purposes, for advisors to be as efficient and productive as possible, all they need to do is gain a grasp of the most applicable rules and technical aspects of Social Security income planning that they will use in their practices.

Check out this suite of marketing and practice management tools: Watch video:  

Social Security Planning 101 – putting to work the most relevant 20% concepts

There are many elements, rules, and strategies that together impact how a client can elect and optimize their Social Security income benefit. As financial professionals, a helpful metaphor might be to visualize Social Security to be somewhat of an octopus. The body of the octopus could be considered the most relevant Social Security income principles and planning applications that we might frequently encounter with our common client cases.

The “Social Security tentacles” can be viewed as aspects of Social Security income planning that you might encounter less frequently with your clients. For example, these element “tentacles” might include―but not be limited to―divorce, survivor benefits, disability, how earned income affects Social Security income, government pension offset provisions, etc. Certain government pensions can reduce or altogether eliminate Social Security income. Please see the Social Security website for more information on the Windfall Election Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) programs.

To be effective as possible, an advisor ought to consider learning and implementing Social Security income planning applications they might commonly encounter with the bulk of their prospects and clients. Many comprehensive Social Security reference guidebooks covering nearly all aspects of Social Security income planning are provided through both private vendors and the Social Security administration. Independent vendors, such as Mercer provide an excellent and concise Social Security guidebook for a nominal fee. The Social Security website, also serves as a reliable resource for information.

Adopt or Develop a Core “80/20” Social Security Advisory Planning Presentation

Each of us as financial advisors has a unique set of practice offerings as well as a unique client base. As you may be aware, Social Security income planning is a broad financial planning topic. Many of the rules can be complex and the possibilities for the potential claiming strategies might seem daunting. Fortunately, as you learn more about this topic and the most common rules and applications that apply to your clients, you will become equipped to apply 20% of the most relevant Social Security income planning rules and concepts to help you resolve roughly 80% of your client Social Security income election applications.

Whether you plan to market your Social Security income planning one-on-one via face-to-face meetings or conduct group presentations, you may wish to develop or adopt content for a 50-minute core Social Security income planning presentation. Your selected presentation could address the six (6) concepts and tools commonly applied in Social Security claiming client cases. Or, you may wish to modify and cite Social Security income planning concepts you feel are most relevant to your unique practice.

For example, within our own practice, we have developed our own comprehensive PowerPoint presentation deck and associated workbook that addresses the following relevant Social Security income planning topics in the following sequence:

  • Claim & get it right the first time
  • Don’t elect too early
  • If married, use your living spousal income benefit
  • If married, leverage the survivor benefit income stream
  • Compute your optimal benefit
  • Align your election strategy with your overall portfolio

Thoroughly learning the content for this type of 50-minute Social Security presentation can become the foundation for taking your Social Security income planning business development to the next level. This presentation can be delivered to the general public, service organizations, accountants, attorneys, and other strategic partners.

Once you learn this material, you can cut, paste or adjust the talk for a wide variety of group and/or individual meeting target audiences. A well-thought-out Social Security core presentation will work equally well for both the general public and professionals, such as accountants, attorneys and strategic partners.

Implementing Social Security Maximization & Optimization Technology

As financial professionals, a helpful metaphor might be to visualize Social Security to be somewhat of an octopus

A growing number of financial advisors are becoming aware of software planning tools introduced to the marketplace to calculate Social Security Income solutions for their clients. There is a complex interplay of Social Security income election options for married couples, in particular, that only a handful of financial professionals fully understand. And there are hundreds upon hundreds of possible Social Security income election combinations for a couple.

Few advisors understand the mechanics of strategies such as “File & Suspend” or “Claim-Now-And-More-Later.” Even fewer advisors know how to quantify the results for these strategies and present them to their clients, though these are powerful techniques to greatly assist your clients when optimizing their Social Security income pic¬¬ture. The selected income election strategy is typically a function of your clients age(s), PIA (Primary Insurance Amount, 100% full benefit amount), relative PIA ratios for a couple, and estimated life expectancy(s). PIA and other key Social Security income planning terms are defined in more detail in….

Several software vendors and financial product distributors are well aware of the burgeoning need for Social Security income planning. These companies have rolled out additional resources and software solutions to address this growing market. Incorporating these Social Security income planning technologies into your practice can broaden the scope of your billable financial planning services, provide solutions for your clients, and positively differentiate you from your competitors.

The key to growing your practice with Social Security planning is to concretely and accurately grasp the fundamentals and common client applications in the most time and cost-efficient ways possible. Next, acquire effective tools and integrate them into your practice to help clients solve their problems. Once you develop this expertise, you will want to market your powerful niche with cost-effective marketing vehicles and distribution channels that are consistent with the vision, staffing, and scale you have for your practice.

Social Security Income Planning: Taking the Leap, Details, Uncertainty, Inertia…

Learning Social Security income planning will take some effort on your part. It could mean extra hours for a few months with some time spent in the evenings and during weekends. Learning this material might require you to alter your daily work schedule. Advisors can at times fear change in their daily routine. If you find it difficult to make these changes, we suggest taking baby steps. There is a lot of information associated with Social Security income planning, so be wary of getting bogged down in the detailed minutia.

You may wish to acquire resources to learn the most relevant, applicable aspects of Social Security income planning. By learning the most critical 20% of Social Security rules and planning concepts, you potentially can solve for roughly 80% of your client planning scenarios. Begin by learning just a few of the basic Social Security planning principles. Then begin to inform your clients and professional alliances that you have ventured into the Social Security planning arena. Gauge their reaction to your newfound knowledge. As you receive feedback, continue developing your specialty and adjust your work routine accordingly.

The Social Security income optimization calculations involve inputting certain unknown assumptions, such as determining the projected Social Security monthly income benefit and life expectancy. Work with your clients closely to place the best estimates into these calculations. This may be a stumbling block for some advisors, but our jobs often involve client planning to do our best to help them shape and “forecast their financial future.” Competent financial professionals will do their best to use these calculations and explain the assumptions built into the Social Security income planning model to their clients to help them make wise decisions.

Acquire a best-in-class Social Security software program to solve for client claim scenarios.
Having a quality software solution will be likely a key component of your successful Social Security income planning program. As mentioned earlier, there are numerous on-line calculators and software portals that can help you with the basic aspects of the Social Security income optimization calculation. However, there are only a handful of turnkey software programs that have the combined features of simple data input and the ability to provide multiple scenario result comparisons including a specific best-fit, recommended client claiming strategy.

Here’s a tool to fold in the Social Security income election into bigger picture financial planning: Watch video

We would strongly recommend that you do some diligent research and choose wisely when selecting your Social Security income planning software. Applying quality software that works for you will help you accelerate your learning curve by reinforcing the Social Security rules and claiming techniques you have learned by generating illustrative case solutions.

Many thought leaders in the financial planning industry believe the we are still in the “top of the 2nd inning” for the opportunity for Social Security income planning in the context of optimum retirement income distribution for the wave of on-going boomer retirees. Advisors, who move on this quickly, and with commitment, will most likely be in a good position for fortifying client retention and enhancing new client growth as well.

Read Part 1: The Social Security Income Planning Advisor

Read Part II:What is my natural prospecting market?

Read the authors’ introductory article: Understanding the SSI Suspend & Restart Rule