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Social Security Benefits II

Earlier this week, I talked a bit about the Social Security replacement rate, how much a single person could expect to receive at their normal retirement age. As we discuss trying to make up the difference to enjoy a post retirement income which replaces working income by close to 80% we run into the Social Security tax trap, the fact that for a single person, when half your benefit plus other taxable income exceeds $25,000, the benefits become taxable. So I updated the table a bit.

Earnings Benefit Replaced $25K-1/2 Benefit Gross $$
20000 11349 0.57 28276 706893
25000 12949 0.52 27476 686893
30000 14549 0.48 26676 666893
35000 16149 0.46 25876 646893
40000 17749 0.44 25076 626893
45000 19349 0.43 24276 606893
50000 20949 0.42 23476 586893
55000 21946 0.40 22977 574424
60000 22696 0.38 22602 565049
65000 23446 0.36 22227 555674
70000 24196 0.35 21852 546299
75000 24946 0.33 21477 536924
80000 25696 0.32 21102 527549
85000 26446 0.31 20727 518174
90000 27196 0.30 20352 508799

Now we can see the amount of (taxable) income we can have before we hit the range where SS benefits are taxable. We also can see the amount of money needed to generate that income (using the 4% withdrawal rate we’ve discussed in the past). Note: The column “$25K-1/2 Benefit” is increased by $8950, the sum of the standard deduction and exemption for a single person. Of course if you have high enough deductions to file schedule A this will increase further. So, getting back to the discussion of pretax and post tax savings, we are closing in on the gross numbers you can save, pretax, with little risk of either hitting a higher tax bracket at retirement or running into the range where Social Security benefits are taxable. In the next few weeks, I will offer more analysis, along with observation on this scenario for couples.


  • Dave September 3, 2008, 10:27 am

    One thing that Scott Burns often mentions which I haven’t seen discussed much elsewhere is that the “Social Security Tax Trap” catches more and more retirees each year. That is because the cutoffs for when SS benefits begin to be taxed are not indexed to inflation. I am 33 and by the time I retire, if the indexes are not adjusted to compensate for inflation, my SS benefits alone will be enough to force some of them to be taxed, even without any additional income. In a way this simplifies retirement tax planning (but not in a good way).

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