The Social Security Administration Has Announced Cost of Living Adjustments & Tax Changes For 2021. Here's What You Need to Know
About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area, that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual financial planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the The DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
On Tuesday, October 13, 2020, the Social Security Administration released important facts and figures for 2021 - including cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for retirees and tax changes for the currently employed.
The Good? Benefits Are Increasing
Those receiving Social Security benefits will see a 1.3 percent COLA increase in 2021. This change will impact around 70 million Americans - including 8 million SSI beneficiaries.1
For the average retiree receiving Social Security benefits in January 2021, this will translate to a roughly $20 increase in monthly benefits - $1,543 up from $1,523. For couples both receiving benefits, the average will increase to $2,596 from $2,563.1
Of note, this year’s COLA increase is lower than the previous two years - although, of course, a cost-of-living adjustment is never guaranteed in the first place. In 2009, 2010 and 2016, COLA bottomed out at zero percent. And in 2016, the COLA was a mere 0.3 percent - substantially lower than the 2.8 percent increase we saw in 2018.2
The Bad? Taxes Are Increasing Too (For Some)
For those still working, the amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax has increased 3.7 percent from $137,700 in 2020 to a maximum of $142,800 in 2021.1 Employees and their employers will each continue to pay 6.2 percent of applicable earnings toward the 7.65 percent combined Social Security and Medicare rate.1 The 3.7 percent increase in applicable income is only in reference to the Social Security portion of the combined tax rate. Self-employed individuals will still be responsible for paying the full 15.3 percent of the Social Security and Medicare tax rate.1
For reference, the maximum Social Security tax in 2021 for a high-earning employee would be $8,853.60 - or $17,707.20 total including both the employee and employer’s contribution. This is compared to 2020’s maximum of $8,537.40, or $17,074.80 total.
The Need To Know? Earning Limits For Retirees
For those under the Social Security Administration’s determined full retirement age who are receiving a paycheck while receiving SS benefits should be aware of 2021’s earning limit changes.
Currently, full retirement age is considered to be 66, if you were born between 1943 and 1954. Below is a chart provided by the SSA in regards to full retirement age:3
Year of Birth
|Full Retirement Age|
||66 & 2 months
66 & 4 months
||66 & 6 months
||66 & 8 months
||66 & 10 months
|1960 & later
Those receiving benefits who have not yet reached full retirement age will be docked $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above $18,960 (or $1,580 per month) in 2021. This is an increase of $720 from 2020's $18,240 per year limit.
It’s important to note that this limit increases somewhat substantially for those who will be reaching full retirement age that year. For 2020, that income limit is $48,600 per year, or $4,050 per month. In 2021, retirees will see that limit increase to $50,520 per year, or $4,210 per month. Applicable income earned above this amount will be withheld at a rate of $1 dollar for every $3 earned above the limit.
Beginning in the month you reach full retirement age, you will no longer be subject to earning limits.
Keeping track of changes in tax rates and future income is an important part of having a well-established retirement plan. If you’re wondering how these changes will affect your own financial standings, reach out to your financial advisor for more information.
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Do you know how much you'll need to retire? The DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of retirees and those who are less than ten years away from retirement. We'll start with a consultation to learn about your goals, values, and what's most important you. The discussion will eventually transition to the best strategies to liquidate your retirement and brokerage accounts to replace your paycheck and sustain spending during retirement. We'll also focus on issues like the timing of taking social security benefits to maximize your benefit and the type of legacy you want to leave for your family.
Throughout this process, we'll work in a collaborative fashion to uncover untapped opportunities, as well as discover gaps in your current strategy that could be preventing you from enjoying a long and fulfilling retirement. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio feel free to send me an e-mail.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio feel free to send me an e-mail.
On the first Thursday of every month I send out a monthly newsletter with tips and tricks to help you manage your Finances. In the October Newsletter, I discuss how the stock market doesn't historically care who's in the White House. I also share a Fox Business Network article, where I'm quoted, about paying down debt or investing.
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