02-06-2020 Columns

American Heart Month

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States with an average of 600,000 Americans dying from heart disease every year. Some people are at greater risk than others for a heart attack. It may be due to such uncontrollable factors as having a family history of heart disease or due to other diseases such as diabetes. Most of the risk factors, however, are lifestyle choices that can be changed. Those risk factors include leading a sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, being overweight/ obese and excessive alcohol use. You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk: Watch your weight. Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke. Control your cholesterol and blood pressure. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. Get active and eat healthy. Although not everyone has it, the most telltale sign of a heart attack is chest discomfort, which may feel like pressure, squeezing, or fullness. Pain may be felt in other areas, too, including one or both arms, neck, jaw, or stomach. Other warning signs include shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness, or passing out. If you or someone you’re with has one or more of these signs, don’t wait – call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information, visit the Berrien County Health Department online at www.bchdmi.org or the American Heart Association at www.heart.org.

Get your Social Security Benefit Statement (SSA-1099/ SSA-1042S)

Tax season is here, and we have made replacing your annual Benefit Statement even easier. The Benefit Statement, also known as the SSA-1099 or the SSA-1042S, is a tax form we mail each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from us in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to the IRS on your tax return. If you live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, simply go online and get an instant, printable replacement form using your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. A replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S is available for the previous tax year after February 1. If you already have a my Social Security account, you can log in to your account to view and print your SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can save the document to your computer or email it to yourself. If you don’t have a “my Social Security” account, creating one is very easy to do and usually takes less than 10 minutes. If you’re a non-citizen who lives outside of the United States and you received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send you form SSA-1042S in the mail. The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. With a personal “my Social Security” account, you can do much of your business with us online. If you receive benefits or have Medicare, your personal “my Social Security account” is also the best way to: Request a replacement Social Security number card (in most states and the District of Columbia). Get your benefit verification letter. Check your benefit and payment information. Change your address and phone number. Change your direct deposit information. Request a replacement Medicare card. Report your wages if you work and receive Social Security disability insurance or SSI benefits. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov to find more about our online services. Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Be aware of Social Security myths

Social Security can be one source of retirement income for you and your spouse. To maximize your benefits, you’ll need to make some key decisions and be aware of some common myths. Myth 1: Always take Social Security early. You can file for Social Security benefits as early as 62, but you could get 25% to 30% more if you wait until your “full” retirement age (likely between 66 and 67). You can receive even more if you wait until 70, at which point your benefits will “max out.” However, there’s no right time to file for everyone – it depends on your situation, including factors such as your life expectancy, employment, financial need and spousal considerations. Myth 2: When you claim Social Security won’t affect your spouse’s benefits. This is not true. How much you receive in Social Security can affect your spouse’s benefits while you are still living (spousal benefits) and after you’ve passed away (survivor’s benefits). Your spouse could receive up to half of your retirement benefit, offset by his or her own benefit, so the longer you work before collecting Social Security, the greater the potential spousal benefits. For survivor benefits, your spouse would receive 100% of your benefit or his or her own, whichever is larger, so when you file affects how much your spouse would receive if you pass away early. In any case, you’ll want to consult with the Social Security Administration about how much your spouse can receive, as his or her own benefits can also affect your decision-making. Myth 3: You can’t work during retirement and collect Social Security. Yes, you can. But if you start receiving Social Security before your full retirement age (likely between 66 and 67), you can only earn up to $18,240 in 2020 and still get your full benefits. Once you earn more than this, Social Security deducts $1 from your benefits for every $2 you earn. But during the year you reach full retirement age, you can earn up to $48,600 without your benefits being withheld. If you exceed this amount, $1 will be deducted for every $3 you earn during the months before you attain your full retirement age. Social Security will increase your benefits when you do reach full retirement age to adjust for the previous work-related withholdings. So, if you plan on working and receiving Social Security, it may not make sense to file if most of your benefits will be withheld. Once you reach full retirement age, you can earn any amount without losing your monthly benefits, although your benefits could still be taxed. Myth #4: Social Security will provide for all my needs in retirement. Social Security will provide about a third of pre-retirement income, on average, according to the Social Security Administration. Consequently, you’ll probably still need other sources of retirement income because Social Security alone most likely won’t be enough to meet your needs. So, throughout your working years, contribute as much as you can to your IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. Combining these income sources with Social Security can help improve your chances of enjoying the retirement lifestyle you’ve envisioned. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones is a member of SIPC.