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News

Foothill to offer four-year degree: Foothill aims to launch dental hygiene degree in fall 2016

Foothill to offer four-year degree: Foothill aims to launch dental hygiene degree in fall 2016


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Students enrolled in Foothill College’s two-year dental hygiene program, above, can soon earn a four-year bachelor’s degree for approximately $10,000.

Foothill-De Anza Community College District Chancellor Linda M. Th...

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Schools

Freestyle hosts exhibition at Computer Science Museum

Freestyle hosts exhibition at Computer Science Museum


Traci Newell/Town Crier
Mountain View High junior and Freestyle Academy student Radika Gupta, right, works with a fellow student during a WebAudio course this month.

For three periods a day, a small subset of students from Los Altos and Mountain Vi...

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Community

Museum explores Stanford, Valley connection

Museum explores Stanford, Valley connection


Courtesy of Julie Rose
The Los Altos History Museum’s “Symbiotic Superstars” event drew a crowd including, from left, “The Lure & the Legends” creator Nan Geschke, Stanford President John L. Hennessy, historian Leslie Berlin and Adobe Systems c...

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Comment

Good compromise on PE exemptions: Editorial

While “Deflategate” captures the national sports headlines, the local issue of physical education class exemptions for freshmen seems a much worthier sports topic for discussion.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Truste...

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Special Sections

Your Home Brief

Filoli hosts bird exhibition

Filoli kicks off the 2015 season of art exhibitions in its Visitor and Education Center with “The Birds of America: Audubon Collection,” a selection of prints from Filoli’s Permanent Collection, Feb. 10...

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Business

Wine & beer lounge coming to First Street

Wine & beer lounge coming to First Street


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The new wine and beer lounge Honcho heads to First Street, with a spring opening anticipated.

A cocktail lounge proposed for First Street has cleared its first hurdle – the Los Altos Planning and Transportation Comm...

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Books

"Fearless Genius" photos chart Silicon Valleys brain trust


Not every book needs pages and pages of words to tell a story – some do it through pictures.

“Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley, 1985-2000” (Atria Books, 2014) by Doug Menuez features more than 100 photographs Menuez to...

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People

RUBY DOSHIM LAI

Ruby Doshim Lai was born on July 26, 1929 and passed away at home on January 10, 2015. A resident of Los Altos for over 50 years, Ruby is survived by her husband Bill; children Gwen, Tracy and Allyn; and grandchildren Kiyoshi and Misa.

Born on Mott ...

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Travel

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill


Courtesy of Raúl Cañibano
Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano is set to appear at Foothill College tonight. His work – including the image “Series: Guajira’s Land, Viñales, 2007,” right – is on display at the KCI Gallery t...

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Stepping Out

'Betrayal' at Pear

'Betrayal' at Pear


Ray Renati/Special to the Town Crier
The cast of Pear Avenue Theatre’s “Betrayal” includes Maryssa Wanlass, from left, Fred Pitts and William J. Brown III.

The Pear Avenue Theatre presents Harold Pinter’s investigation of modern relationships, “...

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Magazine

Tracing history on foot: Hidden Villa’s long hike

Tracing history on foot: Hidden Villa’s long hike


Campers on Hidden Villa’s Sierra Backpacking Trip study historical photos to measure how the land has changed and alternate serving as student leaders who guide the route of their three-week trek.

Amid the high-tech camps and programs of a Bay Area ...

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Are there benefits to taking Social Security early?

Following is the first in a two-part series exploring the pros and cons of taking early Social Security payments.

I’ve written numerous articles over the years about strategies for maximizing Social Security benefits.

The most fundamental decision all retirees face is when to start taking payments. If you need the money, you may have no choice but to start taking payments as soon as you are eligible. But if that’s not the case, which is better: to start as early as possible and invest the proceeds or to wait and take advantage of higher payments?

It’s important to understand how Social Security payments work. Your Full Retirement Age (FRA), based on your date of birth, is the age at which you can begin collecting what the Social Security Administration calls your Primary Insurance Amount. This is the monthly amount the administration sends you for the rest of your life. The calculation of your Primary Insurance Amount is a bit complicated, but suffice it to say that it is based on your highest 35 years of earned income, adjusted for inflation.

To add to the complexity, the Social Security Administration allows some flexibility. You can choose to begin collecting your benefits at your FRA, as early as age 62 (even earlier in certain circumstances) or as late as age 70. If you choose to start early, you will receive reduced benefits for the rest of your life; if you choose to start later, you will receive expanded benefits (called delayed credits).

For every year you delay after age 62 until FRA, your initial monthly payment increases by 8 percent. The same is true for every year you delay between your FRA and age 70. For example, if you begin collecting benefits at age 62 and your FRA is age 66, your starting payment will be only 75 percent of your Primary Insurance Amount. If you wait until age 70 – the longest you can wait and still receive the 8 percent annual delayed credits – your initial payment will be 32 percent higher than your Primary Insurance Amount.

As you might surmise, the age at which you start can have a significant impact on the total income you receive over your retirement lifetime.

It’s also important to consider two other facts about Social Security benefits: If you start taking benefits before your FRA and you are currently working, your benefits will be reduced; and regardless of your starting age, your payments include cost-of-living adjustments that enable you to keep pace with inflation.

Break-even analysis

If you’re the analytical type, you might approach this question by doing a break-even analysis.

Calculate the age at which you would have accumulated the same total income regardless of whether you start collecting benefits at age 62 or at age 70. If you treat this as a simple mathematical exercise, the answer is age 82. That is, if you plan to die before age 82, it’s better to start your Social Security benefits as early as possible (i.e., at age 62), but if you plan to live longer, you should wait until age 70 to start.

However, such an analysis would be quite incomplete. Assuming that you plan to invest your Social Security income, realistically there are a couple of other factors you need to take into account:

• The return on investment of your Social Security income.

• The inflation rate, which impacts the growth over time of the Social Security payments.

• Your tax rate, which affects not only how much you may keep but also how much of your Social Security income is taxable.

Doug Lemons, retired Social Security Administration deputy assistant regional commissioner, recently completed the above analysis using various return on investment, inflation rate and tax rate assumptions. In part 2 of this series, I’ll share the very interesting conclusion he reached.

Artie Green, a Los Altos resident, is a certified financial planner and professional investment adviser. For more information, call (408) 747-1222.

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