Are you at or near the point of qualifying for Social Security benefits? If so, you may or may not need those payments to supplement your other income sources. For many of us, the focus becomes repositioning those payments to create a greater legacy for our kids or charity. We’ve dealt with this issue at length and below you’ll find a few ideas about how to handle this situation.

Using Social Security to Buy Life Insurance

Let’s take Jim, a retired executive who has accumulated $15 million in assets over his lifetime. At 69 years old, Jim still has not turned on Social Security benefits because he knows they continue to increase each year that he waits. However, at 70 years old, the payments max out and there is no further benefit to waiting.

Jim’s plan is to turn on the roughly $40,000 of income and have it directly deposited into his checking account. In the process, he will withhold one-third of the payment to cover taxes that will be due on the income. Jim is trying to figure out the best way to leverage those payments into an eventual legacy, either for his kids or charity, and how to do so without increasing the size of his taxable estate.

We believe Jim should use his payments to buy a life insurance policy. Doing so will allow him to access some incredible advantages not offered through other vehicles. First, to prevent his Social Security payments from increasing the size of his estate, Jim decides to set up an irrevocable life insurance trust in which to purchase the policy. He decides to make his cousin the trustee and his two kids the beneficiaries.

Given the roughly $25,000 that is left after paying taxes, Jim can purchase over $1 million of life insurance. As soon as he makes that first premium payment, the $1 million benefit is locked in. This strategy perfectly meets Jim’s desire to create a future nest egg for his kids without increasing the size of his estate. Plus, he can do so without taking on the market risk associated with stocks and bonds.

Charitable Giving with Social Security Payments

Now, let’s suppose Jim wanted to use those payments to support his favorite charity instead. Rather than own the policy himself, he can $40,000 each year to the charity and have them use the money to buy a life insurance policy. Why would he do this? By donating the money, he can more than likely take a tax deduction for the full $40,000, part of which is the net amount of his Social Security income.

Also, by having the charity own the policy rather than himself, he is avoiding the death benefit being included in his estate: Nothing would upset Jim more than watching 40% of his gift slip away to unnecessary taxation. Also, because his premium is now $40,000 per year instead of $25,000, the face amount of his policy has jumped from $1 million to $1.5 million.  

When we compare the results of these strategies against the alternatives, it’s hard to rationalize a different move. If Jim just took his Social Security payments, paid the tax, and gave the proceeds to charity, he would likely give them somewhere between $300,000 and $600,000 in total depending on how long he lives. By using life insurance, he creates a $1.5 million gift, even if he dies in year one!

If the charity is wise, they can choose to only spend the interest from that lump sum and create a gift that gives forever into perpetuity. Life insurance also provides a guaranteed death benefit, avoiding the volatility and uncertainty of market investments.   

The advisors at Howard Kaye can show you how to think differently about your estate plan. A fairly simple strategy such as the one illustrated above can change lives, just by taking an extra income stream and repurposing it for the benefit of your family or charity. Call 800-DIE-RICH to speak with us today and let us start crafting a similar plan for you.