- Annuities do not impact the amount of retirement benefits you can receive from Social Security.
- Depending on the type of annuity you own, it may impact the taxability of your Social Security benefits by raising your taxable income.
- To best understand the taxability of your annuity or Social Security benefits, speak to a Social Security Administration representative or a financial advisor.
The Impact of Annuities on Your Social Security Retirement Benefits
Prior to 401(k)s becoming the dominant vehicle for retirement, the traditional view of how to create a retirement plan was referred to as a three-legged stool: Pension, Social Security and personal savings. The world has changed a lot in the last 4 decades and pensions are a relative rarity for most workers. However, for those that can save for it, it is possible to recreate the benefits of a pension through an annuity contract. Annuities offer the same lifetime income people valued from company-sponsored pensions and with an annuity you have far more control over how and when the income is generated.
Creating dependable, guaranteed lifetime income is a popular solution for retirees who don’t want to risk running out of money or are wary of depending on income from market-based investments. While it is not usually advisable to put all your money into an annuity, it can be beneficial to cover your essential expenses with guaranteed income from a combination of pensions, Social Security and annuities.
Social Security retirement benefits are based solely on your earned income throughout your career and the age at which you file for benefits. Retirement withdrawals or annuity income will not impact this benefit amount because they are not viewed as wages, but these sources may impact the amount of taxable income you receive.
While annuities will not impact the amount you are eligible for from your Social Security retirement benefits, they can impact Supplemental Security Income (SSI) meant for individuals who are blind, disabled or over age 65 with certain financial qualifications. If you or someone you know are receiving or expect to receive SSI benefits and think an annuity may increase your income above eligibility thresholds, it is important to speak with the Social Security Administration and a qualified attorney to discuss options for maintaining your benefits.
Interested in Buying an Annuity?
As the saying goes, “it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.” First, it is important to understand what kind of tax treatment you can expect from your annuity income. Different annuity treatments will yield different taxability.
- Qualified Annuities
- A type of annuity that is funded with pre-tax dollars. This type of annuity will create taxable income for the participant whether money is withdrawn as a distribution or as annuitized payments.
- Non-Qualified Annuities
- A type of annuity that is funded with post-tax dollars. The growth on the principal will still be taxable as income depending on the way it is being paid out.
- When you annuitize your non-qualified annuity, the payments will be taxed proportionately to the amount of growth relative to the principal in the contract at the time it was annuitized. Example: If 75% of your annuity value was from post-tax contributions and 25% was growth, then only 25% of each payment will be taxable as income.
- When your annuity is not annuitized, you are able to withdraw money as a distribution. This is most common with deferred annuities. The taxability of the money will be handled Last Out, First Out (LIFO). This means that all distributions will be taxable until all the growth is used up, and then the principal can be withdrawn tax-free.
Important Annuity Terms
For the purposes of understanding how this will impact Social Security, we still must understand the thresholds that impact Social Security taxability. Social Security retirement benefits are partially taxable when an individual or couple exceeds certain income thresholds.
Social Security Taxability Per the IRS:
For individual filers, if your combined income* is:
- Between $25,000 and $34,000, you will owe taxes on up to 50% of your Social Security benefits or
- Greater than $34,000, you will owe taxes on up to 85% of your Social Security benefits
For joint filers, if your combined income* is:
- Between $32,000 and $44,000, you will owe taxes on up to 50% of your Social Security benefits or
- Greater than $44,000, you will owe taxes on up to 85% of your Social Security benefits
*For the purposes of these calculations, the IRS defines “combined income” as the following:
Combined Income = Adjusted Gross Income + Nontaxable Interest Income + 50% of your Social Security Benefits
How Social Security Determines Earnings
Social Security calculates an individual’s prospective benefits by tracking the highest 35 years of income over their working life. To be eligible for Social Security benefits, an individual has to be 62 years of age and worked and paid into the program for 10 years or more. If you are not eligible, but a spouse is, you can receive payments based on their benefits.
The IRS uses a calculation called “Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME)” to calculate the proper Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) for each eligible person. The PIA is the amount of Social Security benefits owed each month at Normal Retirement Age (NRA). To find your Normal Retirement Age, please visit the SSA.gov page explaining that subject.
The calculation for AIME can be complicated but an example of someone retiring in 2023 is shown on the SSA website. If you would like to understand your own Social Security benefits, you can log into SSA.gov or make an appointment with an SSA representative to ask questions.
Receiving Annuity Payments and Social Security Benefits at the Same Time
Social Security income is often only a portion of the income most people need in retirement. These benefits were meant to supplement but not replace all income planning. According to information compiled by the Social Security Administration, Social Security retirement benefits typically only make up approximately 40% of an individual’s pre-retirement income. Most financial advisors recommend that people plan to live on 85% of their pre-retirement income so there remains a significant gap in income when someone depends only on Social Security.
To close the gap left between required income and the Social Security benefits, most retirees need to depend on their savings to produce income. For those retirees that are wary of market volatility or expect they may live a long time and don’t want to run out of money, an annuity can provide a solid income foundation. It is strongly recommended that retirees cover their essential expenses with guaranteed income. Essential expenses could be anything that you can’t or won’t live without such as food, heat, shelter and health care. However, it is possible to purchase more income to create a stronger stream of income throughout your or your and your spouse’s lives.
For those retiring prior to 70, taking income from a portfolio or annuity may allow you to delay filing for Social Security benefits. Waiting longer to receive your benefits can increase the amount of monthly benefits you ultimately receive. For each year after the Normal Retirement Age, your monthly benefits will increase by roughly 8%. Before employing this strategy, speak with someone from the Social Security Administration and a financial advisor to make sure this strategy will work for you.