USA Today - 27.03.2020

(Darren Dugan) #1

Whether you’re on retirement’s door-
step or striding toward it, there’s one fi-
nancial task you should complete each
year: Checking your Social Security
To do so, you’ll have to create or sign
in to your Social Security account at
You can then receive personalized
estimates of future benefits based on
your real earnings, see your latest state-
ment and review your earnings history.
So, what are some of the most impor-
tant things to know when reviewing
your statement?
❚Today’s pretax dollars.Your Social
Security Statement details what your
estimated benefit will be at your full re-
tirement age in today’s dollars, not fu-
ture dollars.
That can be confusing to people who
are trying to estimate how much income
they will need in retirement.
Your estimate also is a before-tax
amount. The actual amount you’ll re-
ceive after taxes or deductions will de-
pend on when you file for Social Securi-
ty, whether it’s before, at, or after full re-
tirement age and how much income you
You also should remember that the
Social Security system pays cost-of-liv-
ing adjustments (COLAs) to beneficia-
ries and the estimates on your state-
ment do not include COLAs, says David
Cechanowicz, a senior financial planner
at REDW Wealth, LLC.
❚Only an estimate.Your estimated
benefit is just that. And that estimate is
“based on the assumption that the

worker will continue to work at the
same pay schedule as he or she current-
ly earns, all the way to the various ages,”
says Cechanowicz.
“Therefore, any significant change in
income or years worked will change the
ultimate amount.”
Put another way: If you stop working
earlier, your actual benefit will be less
than the estimates, says Marcia Man-
tell, author of “What’s the Deal With...
Social Security for Women.”
❚Multiple benefits.Your Social Se-
curity Statement doesn’t just list what
your benefit will be at age 62, full retire-
ment age and age 70.
Rather, multiple benefits are project-
ed on a Social Security statement, in-
cluding disability benefits and those
benefits that might be available to work-
ers and their family and survivors, says
“For example, if a worker becomes
disabled at age 40, he or she will also
have a ‘family maximum’ that allows ad-
ditional benefits to be paid for minor
children in the household as well as for a
spouse who might be caring for those
children,” he says.
❚Increase your benefit.Social Secu-

rity benefits are based on a formula that
takes into account the inflation-adjust-
ed earnings for an individual’s highest
35 years of work, says Cechanowicz.
“Therefore if an individual collects So-
cial Security benefits and continues to
work - especially at and after full retire-
ment age where there is no possibility of
having to pay back benefits - he or she
may increase their lifetime formula
which will then cause their benefits to
Note: Benefit increases for working in
2019 will show up almost a year later at
the end of 2020.
Mantell says Social Security does use
your highest 35 years to calculate your
benefit but also includes zeros if you do
not have income in all 35 years.
“Many people see reduced income
from maternity leave, part-time income
from early jobs, no income when unem-
ployed or in graduate school or provid-
ing caregiving,” she says.
“Zeros can be replaced with years of
higher income to boost your benefit.”
❚Are there missing years?Review
your earnings record to make sure that
no years are missing. “Lost years may
reduce the ultimate benefits that are

available,” says Cechanowicz.
If you discover earnings missing
from your record, the first thing you
should do is find some proof of those
earnings. This proof could be, for in-
stance, a W-2 form (Wage and Tax
Statement), a tax return and other doc-
uments showing you worked.
After you’ve gathered your docu-
ments or made a list of all the informa-
tion you can remember, contact Social
Security. The Social Security Admini-
stration will work with you to correct
your record. For more, read How to Cor-
rect Your Social Security Earnings Rec-
If you’re a high-income earner, you’ll
see a different income listed for Social
Security versus Medicare.
Social Security taxes are capped at
the annual taxable wage base ($137,
in 2020), but you pay the Medicare por-
tion on all income, Mantell says.
❚Don’t see a benefit?According to
Mantell, you won’t see any retirement
benefits until you have worked long
enough to earn 40 credits.
“Generally, that is 10 years of work,
and it does not have to be consecutive
years,” she says. “However, you may al-
ready be eligible for other benefits such
as disability or survivor amounts should
you need them.”
By way of background, you qualify
for Social Security benefits by earning
Social Security credits when you work
in a job and pay Social Security taxes.
Social Security bases Social Security
credits on the amount of your earnings.
In 2020, for instance, you receive one
credit for each $1,410 of earnings, up to
the maximum of four credits per year.
Robert Powell is the editor of TheS-
treet’s Retirement Daily http://www.retire- and contributes
regularly to USA TODAY.

Social Security statement

should be on your checklist

Robert Powell



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Social Security questions, including how your
benefits fit into an overall retirement plan.
much you may receive with our
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Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not
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Most of AutoNation’s 325 locations
are open but many customers are
scheduling free delivery of vehicles
they’ve purchased or want to test drive,
Cannon said.
At Sonic Automotive, one of the
country’s largest dealer networks, it’s a
similar story. Most of Sonic’s stores are
open, with the exception of certain loca-
tions in California, which has a shelter-
in-place order.
“People don’t have to worry about
coming into contact with our staff,” said
David Smith, president of Sonic Auto-
motive. “We’re disinfecting the cars be-
fore and after the test drives, we’re dis-
infecting all the areas in service and
Smith said it’s vital for service de-
partments to remain open to help cus-
tomers who still need to get to their jobs.
But he said it’s also important for show-
rooms to remain open so that customers
who need to replace their vehicle can do
so, instead of spending thousands on a
car that shouldn’t be repaired.
“Can you imagine the panic that
would be caused if the public could not
get to the grocery store, If they couldn’t
get to the hospital, if they couldn’t get to
vital places?” Smith said.
Sonic also is practicing what Smith
called “no-contact sales and service”
and is encouraging customers to fill out
most of their paperwork online.
“They can do about 90% of the trans-
action online on our website,” he said.
Used car retailer CarMax has tempo-
rarily closed at least 39 of its more than
210 locations, including all 27 in Califor-
nia. Like many other dealerships, Car-
Max is offering customers the option to
test-drive vehicles alone if they’re un-
comfortable riding along with a dealer-
ship employee.
At Carvana, which advertises itself
as a “car vending machine,” “some” lo-
cations are closed but customers can ar-
range for a “contactless delivery” if they
live nearby, the company said in a state-
ment. Customers can take delivery of a
vehicle without interacting with the
person who arrives in the vehicle hauler.

Auto sales fall off during crisis

Auto sales are expected to drop be-
cause of COVID-19, as Americans hold

off on major purchases, much as they
did during the Great Recession, which
triggered the bankruptcies of General
Motors and Chrysler.
At the beginning of the year, fore-
casts called for 2020 U.S. auto sales of
somewhere in the mid-16-million range.
But the full-year figure could drop below
14 million in a “full-blown recession,” analyst Michelle Krebs
said in an email.
The number of people shopping for a
new vehicle fell by 25% in the first half
of March, compared with a year earlier,
according to data source Comscore.
The National Automobile Dealers As-
sociation has asked federal, state and
local governments to ensure that their
members are not prevented from oper-
ating because of shelter-in-place or-
ders. The group also wants Congress to
include “short-term liquidity for dealer-
ships” through loan guarantees and oth-
er measures in the next stimulus pack-
“Just like every business, business
has been off,” Smith said. “There’s cer-
tainly a slowdown but we believe that’s

Coronavirus car deals

Automakers have offered a slew of in-
centives to customers. For example,
Ford is offering to make three months of
new-car payments on behalf of custom-
ers, Hyundai is offering to make pay-
ments for six months if customers lose
their jobs due to the coronavirus and
GM is offering 0% financing for 84
months for certain buyers.
“The manufacturers have been very
supportive. They’ve come out with in-
credible offers,” Cannon said.
Autotrader’s Krebs said it could be a
good time for some people to take the
“Great time to buy a vehicle if you
dare to venture out,” she said. “Sales
have fallen off, dealerships remain open
and automakers are supporting dealers
and consumers to purchase.”
While COVID-19 is a significant crisis
for the auto industry, it’s also presenting
an opportunity of sorts for certain ser-
vices. For example, AutoNation is field-
ing a surge of interest in its Clorox Total
360 sanitizing service, Cannon said.
The 30-minute, $29.99 service kills
99.9% of bacteria on hard and soft sur-
faces inside vehicles. AutoNation is of-
fering the sanitizing service for free to
first responders in certain markets.

Auto dealers

Continued from Page 1B

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