2013 saw the introduction of a number of new rules and services implemented by the Social Security Administration that affect a majority of American workers and retirees:

No More Paper checks.  Starting March 1, benefit recipients will no longer receive paper Social Security checks.  Beneficiaries instead will need to choose between two options: direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or a prepaid Direct Express Debit MasterCard.

Payroll Tax Cut Expires.  Many people have undoubtedly noticed the hit their paychecks took this year due to the expiration of the payroll tax cut (see our article, “Social Security Payroll Tax Hike: How To Ease the Pain”), which went from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent on earnings of less than $113,700 (an increased from $110,100 in 2012).

Online service increased.  You can now apply for Social Security benefits online instead of visiting a Social Security office.  You can also access your Social Security statement online, including your earnings history and expected payments upon retirement.

Office hours decreased.  Social Security offices have started decreasing hours of operation to reduce costs, and now close at noon on Wednesdays.

Payments increased.  Social Security benefits payments increased by 1.7 percent as of Jan. 1, 2013.  This is an average monthly increase of $21.

Earnings limits increased.  Workers aged 62 to 65 can now earn up to $15,120 before $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 of income earned above the limit.  Those who turn 66 in 2014 can earn up to $40,080 before $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $3 of income earned above the limit.  The earnings limit no longer applies to workers over the age of 66.

If you need to know more about effective retirement planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call 888.597.9685 today and mention this article.