Make It Last – Ep 142 – Social Security: The Best Plan Going Forward

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This week on Make It Last Victor and Mark give you a little insight into who Victor is and how he got to where he is now.

Then, Victor and Mark go on to discuss Social Security and how it is, in essence, the corner stone of your retirement plan.

Finally, the guys wrap up the show with a fun game of “Would You Rather?”

Also available on SpotifyApple Podcasts, & Google Podcasts

Make It Last with Victor Medina is hosted by Victor J. Medina, an estate planning and Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and Certified Financial Planner professional (CFP). Through his law firm and independent registered investment advisory company, Victor provides 360º Wealth Protection Strategies for individuals in or nearing retirement.

Full Transcription Below

Mark Elliot: Maybe you’ve heard Victor’s radio show before. You’ve heard him but have you seen him? Victor, you’re probably on billboards all over the New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas, right? New York City, you’re there. Time Square.

Victor Medina: I think today’s billboards are probably going to be on my YouTube channel. I think that’s the only thing that anyone is staring at these days. I don’t know anybody that’s looking at billboards any longer.

Mark: I will say though, that people might have seen you as the local director of the a cappella group.

Victor: Oh my goodness, you didn’t warn me that you were going to embarrass me this way off of it. Yeah, one of the things that I do for fun is I’m the musical director of local a cappella group, which is great because I will tell you, what we do for fun is every Wednesday, we start singing at 7:30 at somebody’s house in the area.

Everyone’s from general Mercer county, New Jersey area, so we meet at somebody’s house at 7:30. We sing from 7:30 to 10:00 and then we drink wine and eat cheese until we get kicked out of that person’s house from 10 o’clock on. It’s really a cover for being able to hang out with some great people and I just have the privilege of leading talented musicians. A lot of fun.

Mark: I will tell you, one of my favorite movies of all time, and there’s like three of them, “Pitch Perfect,” Anna Kendrick. That’s what you do…

Victor: …the musical director that was on it, this guy named Deke Sharon, who actually went to my college New England Conservatory of Music and somebody that I knew personally. He’s somebody that’s sent arrangements to my a cappella group called, “Jersey Transit,” which is a cool connection that that music made it to Hollywood movie level.

They had TV shows called “The Sing-Off.” It’s cool to watch somebody that I went to college with turn that into something that’s almost mainstream accepted.

Mark: Yeah, absolutely. Well, that’s cool. That’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to get to know Victor a little bit because I think it’s important that we do a radio show. We’re talking about retirement, we’re talking about some of the challenges, some of the what ifs.

What if this happens? What if that happens? How are we going to handle it? What about the fun stuff we’re going to do, how do we do all this? We kind of get bogged down into, “Well, it’s really all about the money.” Well, it’s not. It’s really about, “What is your plan? What are you going to do to enjoy your retirement? How are you going to do it? What’s your perfect day in retirement?”

I think a lot of it though is, if you’re going to talk to somebody about your retirement, your hard earned money for 20, 30, 40, 50 years in the workforce, and say, “Hey, I want you to help me with my retirement,” you need to know a little bit of something about him.

I don’t think you’re just going to go to a stranger on the street and say, “Here, here’s my retirement, 401(k) and IRA. Can you help me in my retirement?” No. You got to know a little bit about him.

I think this is a fun segment, Victor, because we’re going to learn a little bit about Victor Medina. I guess to start with a little bit about your background and how did you get involved in the financial business? You certainly started in the law area first before getting into the retirement world. What’s your background?

Victor: Yeah, I did exactly that. After going to college, I worked for a little while, had a job working in the pharmaceutical industry, and then I went back to law school. I was mostly driven by my wife, who’s wonderful because what she said to me is, “Look, you’re reasonably intelligent, but if you don’t get an advanced degree, people are going to think that you’re full of it for the rest of your life.”

I owe her thanks for pushing me to go to professional school. I went and got a law degree, did what I think traditional people do going into law school, meaning that I went to go clerk for a judge and work for a large law firm and do corporate-related work. That’s where the money was.

Then there’s something deeply unsatisfying about that because I was working for corporations and not for people. In a fit of entrepreneurial spirit, I left that job and started a firm where we were going to focus on estate planning.

I did that mostly because I had a family member who suffered an untimely death. It was early, and they’d done some estate planning. We thought they had everything in order, and it turns out it was a big disaster. It was not malpractice. It was just a common practice on the way the estate planning was done.

It gave me an opportunity in the way that we were going to do estate planning. Whether we were going to be partners with people all the way through the rest of their lives, that we made sure their plans work when we needed them, we tested them along the way.

We just completely changed the way that estate planning was practiced based on the fact that I had this family member who have something that I knew that he wouldn’t want to happen to his family.

We started doing that differently. Because of that, where we were doing with people on an annual basis, we were establishing deep and long-term relationships, but it wasn’t around the paper but around the plan.

It gave me an opportunity to start to be in a position of trust with them where they would seek my opinion on things, lots of different things. Not just because I was a lawyer, but because they knew that I cared about them and I was invested in their family success, and one of those areas was about finances.

For the longest time, maybe the first six, seven years to practice, they would ask me about their investments and say, “Can you help me with this? What do you think about it? We really like you, and we trust you and we want to make sure that we’re OK. I want my family to work with you. Can’t you manage our investments or help us with a retirement plan?”

For the longest time, I would just say, “No, I don’t have those credentials. I can’t do that for you. I’ll try to put you in the right hands.” What I found was that about 50 percent of my clients were being successful not working with somebody that was an expert in the area.

I looked at myself in the mirror, I said, “You know what, you’re just not meeting the expectations of your clients, you’re letting them down. They came to you to make sure that they were going to be OK.”

What we did is then go ahead and create this sister company that just handles retirement planning. I own that completely. It’s not a relationship where we send you to somebody that we have a relationship with. It’s here.

It’s all in-house, it is with exactly the same team that you’re dealing with through your estate planning, you’re dealing with through your retirement planning. We got all the credentials, all the…I get more letters, Mark, after my name that are in my name, but the idea is to be able to do that the right way for clients. That’s how I got started.

Mark: If you want to find out more about the law group side, just go to, M-E-D-I-N-A,, Palante Wealth is P-A-L-A-N-T-E, You can find out about both companies, but they work under one umbrella. They’re all here to help you.

I wonder your wife Jennifer is a school psychologist. Do you think she did a little psychology work on you thinking, “You know what, I can make my husband a better man, if I can get him to law school, he can take better care of my kids.” Did she use some psychology on you, do you think?

Victor: I’d hate to describe that much manipulation forethought. I would rather just think that she insulted me to do it, which is what she did, but yeah, maybe she did know what the ultimate result was going to be if she just tweaked it one way or the other.

Mark: All right. Tell me your…I guess, growing up, finances. Were they a big part of the family? I’m sure you went to private school, you went into the limousine, you sat at the back, got dropped off at first grade. It was an easy upbringing.

Victor: It’s funny, now, of course, is the opposite. They were important, but they were important for reasons why are very real and understandable people but it wasn’t something like we were sitting on a whole bunch of money and I was raised with really financially savvy folks.

The biggest and most impactful early introduction to finances was essentially when my parents ended up getting divorced. I was living with my mom. She didn’t have enough money to make it where she was at and ended up taking me back to Puerto Rico to live with her and her family for a while. Ended up having to declare bankruptcy for what’s going on and start over.

Look, it’s a wonderful story in the sense that after having married and met my stepdad, she’s got multiple properties, she’s retired with an apartment in New York City, a really successful story, but nobody really ever trained her or taught her on the concepts of finances.

I’ve taken that lesson, by the way. It’s something that’s crucially important even one of the books I authored is called “Empowering Women,” specifically in retirement.

Empowering in retirement because, I took the lesson around my mom and said, “How is it that we can help serve these women that are either suddenly single or just weren’t the financially savvy person in the relationship? If they got divorced or widowed? How do we serve them to make sure that they’re getting the right advice?” The book is one of the ways that we’re able to do that.

The earliest lesson on finances was just watching my mom struggle and realizing that as I was going to make my own family and being able to be responsible for supporting them, I want to make sure that I avoided similar mistakes or struggles and really got sophisticated in thinking about it and doing things the right way.

Mark: You think about now as a parent, you and Jennifer have three boys — Aiden 17, Lucas 14, Dylan 8. They’re different stages, Aiden’s getting ready, one more year of high school then go off to college if that’s what his choice is. Lucas getting ready for high school. Dylan just graduated from middle school. No, Lucas just graduated.

Victor: Second grade still for him.

Mark: Lucas just got out of middle school as he moves on into the junior high level. You think about them because I’m thinking for…Your wife’s a school psychologist, you’re an attorney, but you’re certified financial planner as well. Finances were always something hard to talk about it seemed to me growing up.

I never really heard much about money. My dad was a college coach. My mom was a school teacher then worked for a bank. We really didn’t talk. I knew I got all the sporting stuff because my dad was a coach at a college. I got new footballs, new basketballs, new baseballs. It was perfect for me growing up, but it wasn’t like we had a lot of money.

We didn’t take a lot of trips or anything. How important is teaching your kids about finances?

Victor: I think it’s essential. It’s one of those areas that they probably ought be adding into school-related topics, much more than physics.

Mark: Would it be cool if they taught what you talk about to actually had classes like that to how to think about finances? Because I don’t.

Victor: Never happen for me. Did it happen for you?

Mark: No, not at all.

Victor: It’s really important to do it. To your point, even if you have some level of money that’s in there, I think it’s very difficult conversation to have with your kids. You go back and forth between one of these two positions, Mark. Either you don’t have a lot, and the last thing you want to do to your kids is make them be the warriors about where security is going to be coming from in the future.

That’s not anything you want to saddle them with, or you have a ton. The last thing you want them to do is become complacent about either work ethic or what it took to get there. You’re in this no man’s land for trying to figure out how to have these discussions, but they’re important discussions to have.

There’s discussions that I’ve had with each of my kids, specifically, the two older ones. The youngest one is always listening and always offering comments from the peanut gallery, but the older two are interesting examples for me because I’ve learned two things from each of them or how successful I’ve had these financial conversations.

Aiden is got a job as a lifeguard. By the way, great job for a high school kid, to be sitting at the pool, getting a tan and swimming, and looking good. He works and he gets his paycheck and he’s now driving. He’s responsible for his own gas. We’ve got lot of that stuff in there.

He tells me this is after I’m trying to go, “Hey, listen, your savings rate’s important. If you want to retire, if you want to have a nest egg, the more that you put aside…” He’s a guy that comes to me and says, “Look, here’s what I want you to do, help me manage this, dad help me manage…” which I think is great.

“I’m going to take everything in the hundreds level off of that paycheck and I’m going to give it to you to invest, and I’m going to spend what’s in the tens and the twenties.” I thought, “My goodness, that’s a lesson really well-landed on this kid.”

Instead of giving me the tens and the ones spot, he was giving me the hundreds spot off of it because he understood the value of a savings rate and why that was important for him. I knew that I had landed that one, that one was successful.

Then with Lucas, he’s the middle one, he’s 14, he’s now of age to work and the first thing he’s thinking about is, “How and where do I get a job?” He’s thinking about getting his working papers and it’s not that we’re sending him out to the fields to get working early, but what’s important about discussing finances is the value of what labor is to generate money.

That’s such an important lesson to know. There is a spectrum on this, about what you’re going to work at, how much you’re going to get compensated for, what the value of your effort is off of that, and then, eventually, how you increase that over time.

I think the one that has got his designs on following dad’s footsteps the clearest, at least in the way he’s communicating, is my other son Lucas. He wants to go to Taft, so I went to Taft. He wants to go to law school, he wants to have a financial degree, and he wants to come and work in the business.

What he sees in that is a road that he wants to emulate because we’ve been able to show him that it’s got a lot of benefits for him. The lesson on finances is work hard and understand what the value of your labor is and I think, hopefully, this other part of it, I hope he gets it. I know it to be true for what we do.

I hope he understands that we’re delivering in men’s value to families. What we do for a living is transform their lives and give them security in retirement. He wants to be a part of that. I like those elements.

The eight-year-old, Mark, we’re not sure. We’ll see how he turns out, but the first two. I’m batting hall of fame numbers, so far.

Mark: Absolutely. The financial retirement business is important because Victor and the teams at Medina Law Group and Palante Wealth are not only working to improve your retirement life, but they’re also assisting with important decisions about the family, as well, whether that’s estate and legacy planning, helping to establish trust with an attorney, or long-term care planning.

There are a lot of things that impact the other members of the family, so when you work with Medina Law Group, with Palante Wealth, it’s a big family. They’re all here to help support. We know that there are challenges.

There’s going to be some of those what-if situations that happen. “How do we handle this?” “Holy cow, we are getting ready to start our beautiful retirement and now all of a sudden my spouse has Alzheimer’s.” “We’ve got cancer.”

We can think of all those things. We don’t want to, but it’s life. The important thing is you have a plan that really is built for the what-ifs, but it’s also there in place where you put your head on the pillow at night and say, “You know what, when I wake up tomorrow, I’m going to be fine.”

We’re thinking we’ve got things moving in the right direction. How do you do that if you’ve never worked in the retirement world? That’s where Victor’s company come in to help you do that and it’s about you. You’re the CEO, it’s your retirement, it’s your hopes and dreams.

Victor’s team is basically your CFO, your Chief Financial Officer, to help you understand the things that you don’t and to make sure that you make the right decision according to you because at the end of the day it’s your final decision, but Victor can really help walk you down this path.

I don’t know why you wouldn’t take advantage. There’s no cost, there’s no obligation, there’s no pressure. To chat with the teams, it’s 856-506-8300, 856-506-8300. Great opportunity, take advantage. 856-506-8300.

Mark: Welcome back to Make It Last with Victor Medina, Medina Law Group, and Palante Wealth. If you would like to find out more about Medina Law Group go to the website,, M-E-D-I-N-A,,, P-A-L-A-N-T-E,

There’s a lot of moving parts here, but the teams really are here to serve you. They serve the Pennington Greater Marshall County areas as well as Box County, clients in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. If you’d like to find out more, you can go to, You have questions, 856-506-8300, 856-506-8300.

I’m Mark Elliot. Glad you’re with us today. We’re going to spend some time talking about a topic that there’s a lot of moving parts in the decision-making of using this tool for retirement. There’s a lot of numbers out there that maybe we’re not as efficient making these decisions as we should be and it’s back to the old saying of, “You know what? You don’t know what you don’t know.”

I bring this up because it’s really kind of amazing. This is a study and it was a Social Security quiz from MassMutual for those that were 55 to 65. They said a third of prior retirees failed the basic Social Security quiz. 20 percent got a D on the quiz. Many more than half of Americans don’t understand the basics of Social Security and the rules.

Now, here’s a challenge, Victor, I think is that the rules change a little bit. Remember, 1935, FDR puts Social Security in play. You had to be 65 to get it, but the average age back then was 62. They didn’t think you were going to get there, but if you got there, hey, we’ll try to help you out for a few years because you’re not going to last that much longer.

Now, it’s so much different. There’s so much pressure on Social Security because there’s more and more people today hitting the age of 100 than ever before, those centenarians out there. Instead of your average age is 62, now it’s 80, 85, 90. Not unusual, not unheard of, but with all that being said, is Social Security still a cornerstone of our retirement plan?

Victor: It has to be. By the way, we should stop making people live so long. I think maybe that’s the right decision. We’re getting better and better at keeping people around for a longer people of time, but their quality of life, of course, is increasing with that too.

There are 80-year-olds who’s probably doing as much as their 6-year-olds were doing and probably even more, which is fantastic. It’s absolutely a cornerstone, Mark, because one of the things that the study often doesn’t discuss that we, as planners, understand is that the world around where you’re going to get your retirement income has shifted, as well.

Over that period of time most companies did away with pensions, they did away with the guaranteed income source when you retire. That places more emphasis and there’s more weight on getting a guaranteed income source like Social Security because it’s one of the few that is left out there.

People managing that and making smart decisions about that, it’s crucial that they do that because when you get into retirement, you want to make sure that you’ve maximized the benefit that you’ve been paying into for 30, 35 years as a benefit that comes out of it, so it’s crucially important.

Mark: Here’s a challenge is that there is no Victor Medina, there is no Mark Elliot Social Security bucket. Our Social Security that we’ve been paying in goes to our family, our relatives, our friends, people across country. You don’t have a Social Security bucket so that’s a little bit of a challenge there. What do you think is the biggest misconception, if any, that people have about Social Security?

Victor: One of the biggest misconceptions that people have is that there’s no good planning to do around it. What you just do is you take it whenever it’s offered to you.

I can’t tell you how many times clients have come in essentially having already made a Social Security election to take it at age 62, at the earliest opportunity, because they thought to themselves, “Well, I’m going to try to get as much money from the government as I possibly can.”

We forget about the other half of the deal, which is, the longer we delay, the bigger that number goes. In fact, you can delay until age 70. Every year that you delay, your benefit increases by eight percent. That’s a very respectable return on investment.

There’s no other guaranteed investment that will increase by eight percent and will last for the rest of your life. Most people have this misconception that the best thing to do is just take it as early as possible, and that there’s no good planning to do.

What compounds that misconception and mistake is when we have a married couple, when there’s actually more sophisticated planning that you can do, because being married to somebody for 10 years gives you the rights to take a portion of their Social Security and take up to half of that value which actually might be bigger than your number for a period of time while you let your number increase.

There’s a lot of these moving parts. We’re getting a good set of eyes on it. Somebody who’s experienced in helping you plan around Social Security the way that we are might get you a better benefit going forward and actually maximize what you can do with the planning. There’s always an opportunity to get a better result as long as you haven’t already declared Social Security.

Now, there are some really fine wrinkles that if you just started declaring Social Security, you can change your mind about that, pay back the benefits, and then get the benefit of waiting and doing some other planning, but it’s a rare thing. It’s a very limited period of time.

If you’ve been collecting for more than a year, it’s really impossible for you to do that, but if you just recently made the election, you’re like, “Hmm, did I do the right thing? Is that the right thing for me to do. It just happened to win that last year.” We can certainly look at that before we make any decisions and help you understand whether or not that was the best thing for you.

Biggest misconception that there’s nothing to do to cure out that. Talk to somebody that can help you do that like us.

Mark: Let me follow that up with this. Certainly, Palante Wealth in the planning process, you have an income plan investment strategies, tax planning, being tax efficient moving forward, the estate planning as well with Medina Law Group. You have a lot of moving parts in retirement.

Social Security is certainly going to fall into the income planning part. If somebody calls you and says, “Hey, I would like some guidance on when and how to start Social Security.”

I think a lot of us, as you said, we look at it as in a vacuum, “Hey, I’m going to get it as soon as I can get it at 62. I know I’m going to get less, but I’m going to get it now while I can. I know if I wait till 70, I get more.”

When I just look at the math part of Social Security waiting makes sense math-wise, but you’re not just looking at Social Security when you have somebody comes in, right? You’re looking at the rest of the portfolio and where and how does it make sense, I’m thinking.

Victor: That’s right. It isn’t in a vacuum in any case, right? It’s not in a vacuum when you look at it and say, “You should take it immediately.” It’s not in a vacuum that says you should absolutely waits to the end because you can get eight percent.

You really have to see it in the totality of everything else that’s involved, because you have to create a paycheck in retirement to live off of no matter what election you make. Whether you take Social Security early or take Social Security at the very end, you still have to bills that you have to pay and you have to create this paycheck.

There’s these other tax components of it, that factor into it. Where you get your other money from affects how much of your Social Security is taxed if you’re working at the same time.

As you were hinting at putting all of these things into one analysis, to look at each of the areas of income and investments as they relate to income and taxes, as they relates to investments in income and estate planning as the other three.

Once you start to bundle all that stuff together, it gives you some ideas about the best way to do that. Of course, the client is in charge the entire time. I mean, we’re coming up with these ideas, and then you as the client decide which of these things we’re going to be doing.

If it’s an area that you don’t know about, we teach you about it to make sure that you’re making informed decisions along the way, but getting a set of eyes like ours on your retirement picture will help you sometimes see options that you may not have known about before, or see the impact of making planning decisions that may cause you to have higher taxes or something like that along the way.

I’ll tell you a quick story about one of the ones I always think is sneaky. Most people overlook, which is the amount of income that is taxable ends up impacting how much of your Social Security is taken for Medicare Part B premiums and not in this year but based on your taxable income from almost two years ago.

When people look at doing their planning, it’s sometimes a misconception or a too simplistic to look at a top-line number and say, “Well, I know that for my Social Security, I’m going to get $2,500 a month, and I’ll always going to get $2,500 a month and I’ll always pay Medicare at about $135,” or something similar to that.

When written in fact that number can change and it can change based on the fact that you didn’t do planning on where you are going to be taking your income from and other sources that cause more taxes. You can see this sort of spool out of it. This Medicare tax, this Medicare Part B premium that you are contributing as part of your healthcare.

If you’re taking Medicare, it’s one of these things can sneak up and erode how much purchasing power you have. Now, we see the importance of looking at the total picture because we can take somebody and make their tax picture look better. Then, as they get further into retirement, we extrapolate out what the value is of saving on the Medicare Part B premiums that they otherwise would have been paying.

The savings that they get every year that doesn’t get taken from Social Security gets added up over the course of 20 or 30 years worth of retirement as a total benefit of what we are doing.

Sometimes, you are not even focusing on that element of it. We also have perspective of looking at things on a 30-year horizon for you and understanding what you might take and what it might take for you to get all the way through that.

Those things come together in helping put together a plan, because we can see turns in the road before they get there. We can help you understand how to jumble all this stuff together. It isn’t a straight line decision. It’s just take it immediately or take it at the end. It is informed by a lot of things from lots of different places.

Mark: Yeah, there’s a lot of moving parts in Social Security. Widows and widowers eligible at 60. Early retirement is 62. That has been around for a long time. Women were allowed to take it at 62 in 1956. Men were allowed to take it 62 in1961.

Then they changed the laws on taxes. FDR put this into place and said, “This will never be taxed.” That lasted almost 50 years and made it to 1983, then they said, “Hey, we can tax your Social Security up to 50 percent.” Then, 10 years later, 1993, “Hey, we can tax your Social Security up to 85 percent.”

If you have question about all this, sit down with a team that understands Social Security is a part of retirement planning. There’s no question about it. It’s a part of your income strategy when and how to take it.

856-506-8300 is the number again. No cost for this. This is just a chat and a conversation. Does it make sense for us to move forward? 856-506-8300 is the number to talk to the team about Social Security.

It’s a confusing part of this, because Victor, I think it’s crazy to think you can get taxed on it. Those have been around for a while, and they adjust those as we go.

But one of the areas really gets confusing, our spousal benefits. I think that that changed in 2014 where you guys could do some hocus-pocus and make some things way better for people with Social Security, and they did away with that.

Victor: Yeah, there was a big magic act. Absolutely, Mark. What we could do make it look like one percent was claiming, and then their spouse wasn’t going to claim for a while. Then we could switch it around later. Filed was called a restricted application, swap it out.

They really did a way with that as one of our planning options. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t something we can do to maximize what you’re getting, but we really lost the ability to get as creative as we were before the law changed.

Mark: Most people come in. Do they understand that when a spouse passes away that the lower of the two Social Securities actually goes away? You don’t keep getting both. Are most people aware of that today, you think?

Victor: I’m seeing more and more people understand that. I think because we’ve spread the message out. We, as financial advisors, we, as retirement planners, have let people know there is going to be an impact to what happens when a person dies.

We want you to know about that as often informed how we do tax planning, but what often is not discussed in which should be discussed as the second sentence to that is what the tax impact of that is. Because when you lose one portion of Social Security, you are simultaneously shifting your filing status from married to single.

What that means is even though you’re getting less income, you might actually be paying more in taxes because the tax bucket size for single people is about half the size of the amount of the married people. There’s fact is a penalty to what happens when one of the spouses die, and you change the filing status.

It could be for exactly the same or similar income you’re going to end up paying a lot more in taxes. That’s one of the second sentence that should follow the one that lets you know, that you’re going to lower Social Security, you have to say, and you also may be paying more in taxes, because the more that your number goes up, the more that your Social Security gets taxed.

If all of sudden you went from having two Social Securities down to one, and before it might only have been taxed at 0 or at 50 percent and now it’s taxed at 85 percent, just because the filing status changed.

I see a lot more people not understanding the tax impact. I do see more people understanding that they are going to be losing one of the Social Securities.

They know it might be one. They may not always know it’s the lower of them. That would be good for us. Let us know it’s actually the bigger number, but they started to understand that they are not going to keep both of those checks.

Mark: Social Security falls under the income planning part of this process that Victor and the team will walk you through — the income, investment strategies, tax-efficient strategies, legacy estate planning. Social Security is in the income part.

If you would like to report about income in retirement, because you probably want to just go, “You know what, I’m going to get Social Security, so I think I’m good to go. I don’t have anything else but Social Security, I’m good to go.” [laughs] Well, you’re probably not.

Social Security is a big part of this. Victor says it’s still a cornerstone of retirement planning, but it’s not the be-all. It’s not going to be the one thing to save you. There is no silver bullet anymore.

You’ve got to put a lot of things together to create the picture that you want for your retirement. Victor has a report on income, and it’s You go there, and you get the report. It’s fantastic. Retirement planning starts with income.

We’re going to come back. We’re going to talk more about Social Security. There’s some surprising numbers that are out, about Social Security. Already said that third of retirees are 55 to 65-year-olds, failed our Social Security quiz.

It’s amazing how many claim at the wrong time. We’re going to touch on that as well. Again, if you have questions, you want to sit down with the team talk more about Social Security, and where you are on your road to retirement, 856-506-8300, no cost, no obligation, no pressure, 856-506-8300.

If you can do it, whether you haven’t started Social Security yet, what a great time to do it. Do some proactive planning, 856-506-8300. Back with Victor Medina, this is Make It Last. More about Social Security right after this.

Mark: Welcome back to Make It Last with Victor Medina. Victor has Medina Law Group. He has Palante Wealth. He’s the author of five books on retirement planning as a claim to Make It Last series.

Here’s the deal. The team is here to help you. If you have questions, like when can I retire? Do I have enough? Will my money lasts as long as I do? Will my loved ones be OK, if something happens to me? At the end of the day, we want to know if I retire, if my wife and I retire, if just I retire, will I be OK? Will my family be OK? That’s the deal.

Victor and the teams at Medina Law Group and Palante Wealth are here to help you figure that out. There’s a lot of moving parts. A lot of people go, “Well, I don’t know, I don’t want to talk to Victor, because he going to tell me I have to work five more years.”

Victor, that probably could happen. That also could be…I don’t know why you didn’t come in. You could have retired five years ago. You do get both ends of that spectrum, I would think.

Victor: We do. I don’t like to have that tone of voice in either of those discussions that you need to work longer, or you should have seen me five years I’m nobody’s parent off of that. I think that we take the right attitude, Mark, and anybody that comes in and sees us.

If you were to reach out, and you come in and say, “Hey, I want to have a conversation with you.” Our job is not to look backwards. Our job is to take a look at where we are right now and give you the best plan going forward.

Sometimes that means if you’re not willing to work, here’s the impact of what’s going on here, or because you’ve made past decisions, this is what we’re limited on what we’re doing. We’ll be very objective. We’ll be honest about what we’re doing.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time looking backwards about what you failed to do, or decisions that you made that could have been made better. We’re going to take a look at where people are right now, and give them the best decision that we can on how to spend the rest of the time that they have to make it last.

Mark: Absolutely, 856-506-8300, no cost, no pressure, no obligation, and no judgment. We’re going forward, 856-506-8300. We’re talking about Social Security. We said that there was a quiz by MassMutual of 55 to 65-year-old Americans. A third of them failed the Social Security quiz.

Here’s astounding thing, a Social Security Administration, it said a few years back, Victor, that 70 to 80 percent of Americans took Social Security the wrong way for their situation. It’s being reported that up to — and this is a study from United income — 96 percent of retirees are claiming their benefits at the wrong time.

That means four percent of us are getting this right. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong at 62 or you’re wrong at 70 or you’re right at 62 and right at 70 and vice versa. It’s whatever you decide you’re wrong. That’s what’s crazy.

Are you seeing this when people come in? Do you have to say I’m not sure this is the best time for you to do it? Are you surprised by that number, 96 percent of retirees claim Social Security the wrong time?

Victor: I have to be honest. I am very surprised by that number. I would have been comfortable with a number that looked like anywhere between half to three quarters because I do see that people are making mistakes. The fact that it’s everybody that is doing it.

I want to be clear, by the way, that study is not on the basis of longevity. That they died too early or lived too long. It is on the total benefit that they could have gotten for the time that they were there. Taking exactly where they were, they could have made a better decision.

I am totally surprised by that number. Here’s the reason why it’s so important. This benefit that we have is essentially, I don’t want to call them free dollars, because we’ve paid into the system, but there are dollars that are going to be generated to us.

We don’t have to do anything else to have earned them. We’ve already paid into the system. You’ve aged out. You’ve earned your benefit. Whatever that number is as a function of your working history, how much you’ve contributed for how long, it’s a very clear line discussion on what your benefit is, and what it potentially could be based on planning. We have that in there. It’s an earned benefit that you have.

By making a mistake around this, you could be losing between tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of money that is already been paid into the system that you’re entitled to, simply because we didn’t get great counseling, or you didn’t get great counseling when you made the decision.

We’re talking about real free money. That is something that is essential to you having a successful retirement. A mistake here literally can be very costly. We’re talking about real money that could potentially be gone because we didn’t think this through or get the best advice for it.

Mark: I have a lot of friends who are retiring right now. Most of them had pensions at their job. I don’t have a pension. I don’t have that luxury. Social Security is going to be a big decision for me. I can’t do it and work, it’s too confusing. Do you find that most people when they retire go, “I might as well start Social Security with it.”

Victor: I do. Most people do elect it. I would consider to be with the label of too early. Of course, we don’t know everybody’s situation. Sometimes when they’ve made the election, we’re stuck with it. There’s been more than a year, there’s nothing we can do to change it.

I would say if I were placing chips on red or black roulette table off of that, I said most people tend to take it too early. They tend to take it at age 62 when it’s immediately available.

By the way, I think that the reason for that is that Social Security is a sense of security. What’s going on in there is that they know that they can count on that income, and they want to start a paycheck as soon as possible.

What they’re missing in the calculation, of course, is not what that benefit could grow to, but what the tax impact of doing that is. How you add money into the bucket with the impact to your overall retirement picture looks like.

In other words, if you’re looking at longevity, if you want to live to 95 or later if you think you’re going to live to even longer than that, how it affects the entire picture for something like that, and what we’re doing with anything about what we’re leaving behind for legacy.

Generally speaking, people take it too early. By too early is that they can get a better benefit taking a look at everything. By the way, sometimes generating income is something that you can do with the investments that you have by reallocating some of that as part of an overall plan.

It’s not that you’re missing out on the fact of getting a guarantee for income. You can figure out a way to get a paycheck, that is a guaranteed amount on the way that you do your retirement planning. It’s just not worth taking from the Social Security bucket.

We might be taking it from a different bucket to get there. That’s part of what you would get in getting entire plan made up is that you would understand this is exactly where we’re going to get which dollar from at what time, and see that projection out for the entirety of your retirement.

Mark: Maybe people take that decision where they just go, “You know what, I’m going to retire at 62, so I’m going to start Social Security at 62. I’m going to retire at 65, I’m going to start Social Security at 65,” because they know the only person that they can leave Social Security to is a spouse.

The lower Social Security is going away, but the higher of the two stays. “Can’t leave it to the kids, so why pull from my retirement accounts which I’m planning on leaving to my…” Is that a factor in that decision too, do you think?

Victor: It’s a factor. You probably said it a little more sophisticated than the clients that I meet that are capable of saying. It’s not an amount they can leave behind, they see it more about the idea that they can leave the other account behind, they don’t want to touch it.

There’s a lot of people that look at the IRA as a forbidden bucket because they understand to touch it is to cause taxes, but sometimes this right, smart planning is actually to cause taxes to be paid sooner.

The IRS is essentially your business partner in retirement. They’re taking a portion of all of your “winnings.” What you get out of your IRA, they’re going to take a portion of that, but more importantly, they can change the rules about how much they take from that amount.

They can change the tax rates, and because they change the tax rates, they’re changing how much they’re going to take from it. Sometimes, what we can do is buy-out the IRS.

We can say, “OK, listen, we understand your taxes are at these rates right now. We’re actually going to take you at your word, and we’re going to cause there to be taxes to be owed. That way, we pay off the taxes and we never owe you again because we put it into a Roth IRA or perhaps we use some specially designed life insurance to get some income tax free benefits.”

The idea is that we don’t have to pay taxes on this again. The reason why we might do that, is because, in fact, it allows us to take our Social Security tax free in the future, potentially, because it allows our Medicare premiums to stay low, if we’re taking it from un-taxed sources going forward.

Now, we start to understand how and why getting that “guaranteed” money from Social Security early may not be the smartest overall strategy because while you took from the federal government by essentially claiming your Social Security early, you also gave back to the government because you decided to pay higher taxes over a longer period of time.

In fact, if you are planning on leaving IRAs behind to kids, they’re essentially going to have to pay those IRAs out as income tax over 10 years at their rates. You in your retirement probably would pay lower tax rates than they do as working individuals.

Again, we don’t want to miss the forest for the trees, understanding that it’s about making sure you keep, overall, the most amount of money.

For you to take it early because it’s something that’s guaranteed from the government and you can’t leave it behind to anybody else but then yet agree to pay the federal government a whole bunch more in taxes based on the fact that you didn’t do smart planning on the IRA, we missed the boat off of that. That’s the reason why we need to take a look at everything when we create a plan.

Mark: They’re not just going to look at Social Security, but that’s a big decision. Why not get some guidance on how to make the right decision for you when 96 percent of us take it the wrong way because we don’t look at all the other factors? We’re pretty much looking at Social Security in a vacuum.

856-506-8300 is the number. There’s no cost, no obligation for this. Again, no judgment either, 856-506-8300.

We know that Social Security started in 1935. FDR started it. The average age was 62. You had to be 65 to get it. They didn’t think very many people would get it. If they did, they wouldn’t be there very long.

Then they changed it. From 1943 to 1954, born during that time, your full retirement age is 66. Then they changed it again in 1955. Then it went 66 and 2 months, 1956, 66 and 4 months, 66 and 6 months is ’57, 1958, 66 and 8 months.

I’m born in 1959. Everybody that’s born in 1959 this year is turning is 62, but our full retirement age is not 66. It’s 66 and 10 months.

Those that were born in 1960 or later, which means those born in 1960, next year are going to be eligible for Social Security at the age of 62. They’re not eligible for full benefits until the age of 67. Full retirement age, that’s got some connotation and meaning, doesn’t it?

Victor: It does. It, for folks, is that period of time where a couple of things happen. First, they get that earned benefit that they’re seeing at the top of their statements. You log into the Social Security, you see what your benefit is going to be. That’s actually a full retirement benefit. You have to wait to that age to do that.

The other thing about that that happens is that if you happen to be still working at the time, it means that that’s finally the age that if you claimed it at your full retirement age, you wouldn’t have to pay back anything or lose anything based on the fact that you had earnings from somewhere else if you kept working on your job. There’s a lot of impact to understanding that full retirement age is a term of art and what it means.

You’re right, Mark. Essentially what the federal government’s done is tried to shrink the pool of people that get money for the smaller period of time by delaying when you can start and taking a look at how it’s going to be taxed and increasing the taxes on it.

Funny, you paid taxes in to get Social Security. Then you pay some of it back because you owe taxes on it. You’re returning some of that money in there. By changing the variables on that, what they’re hoping to do is make sure that this benefit is something that they can continue to offer.

Even though the pool of people that are receiving it is increasing, the length of time that they’re receiving it is also increasing. By the way, we haven’t even introduced the topic about how they’re funding it. The whole idea that the Social Security Trust Fund continues to get rated with different legislation that is passed, and that threatens the viability of that going forward.

There’s all of these things jumbled together that makes Social Security full retirement age, what you’re going to be receiving, how long, such a murky area to be waiting around in.

Mark: A murky area, the Social Security, because there’s no question, a few years back, it was so scary. Administration saying, “Hey, I think we’re only going to be able to give you about 77 cents on the dollar in 1934, 1935.” Then the pandemic hit.

Now, they say, “Well, maybe it’s 1931, 1932.” We’re talking 10 years away. 2031, 2032, not ’19. I think I said ’19, but 2034, 2035, 77 cents on the dollar as pandemic hits. Maybe it’s 2031. We’re 10 years away from that may be happening.

Here’s my take on this, and then we’re going to move on to another topic. Is that elected officials want to get elected? For my baby boomer age, we’re not going to let you mess with our Social Security. If you want to get re-elected, don’t mess with us. That’s all I’m saying.

Victor: Right, because you vote.

Mark: That’s all I’m saying. They might have to raise the age. 1983 was when they changed that full retirement age of those born in 1960. They were 23 when they changed that age.

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Mark: Welcome back to Make It Last with Victor Medina of Medina Law Group and Palante Wealth. You’re going to find out more about the estate planning, the certified elder law attorney Victor Medina, and that side of things, the estate planning, and the powers of attorney and all of that.

You can always go to the website M-E-D-I-N-A, They’re flat fees. There’s no hourly charge. It’s all about the client at Medina Law Group. You can say the same about Palante Wealth.

Palante Wealth, though, is about holistic planning for your retirement, the income, the investment, the taxes, and those are the all the parts of retirement planning. You’re going to find out more about Victor on that side of things, the financial planning side,, P-A-L-A-N-T-E,

Victor, you went on a trip recently with your family. Went up to the old alma mater up in Boston Northeastern for your undergrad, for your law school. Your oldest son, Aiden, is going to be a senior this coming year, correct?

Victor: Correct.

Mark: You’re doing a little research, going, stopping at some schools, and see if any of them excited Aiden. He liked your alma mater.

We’re going play a little game of “Would you rather,” which is really what retirement is all about. Would you rather do this? Would you rather do that? It’s fun.

Here’s my first “Would you rather.” Would you rather Aiden have a full scholarship to Northeastern, or would you rather pay the entire fee?

Victor: That’s not even fair. Of course, I would rather have him a full scholarship. I don’t know how it’s going to happen because his best chance for…He’s a swimmer, and they actually don’t have a division one men’s swimming team.

I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen, but go ahead. Let’s play in fantasy world, Mark. Yes, I would prefer that he has a full scholarship.

Mark: Yes. Absolutely, because we do know that we talk about inflation from time to time on this program. Education is one of those that’s almost, not quite like healthcare, but it’s in that same area so there’s no question about that.

We going to play a little game of “Would you rather?” Would you rather do this or would you rather do that? Would you rather have that or have this? That’s what retirement planning is all about. When Victor and the team sit down and talk to you about it, it’s a game of “Would you rather?”

Let’s talk about our money, Victor. If we’re not retired yet, our financial decisions are all about this question. The question is over extended, I think a little bit. I think it’s far reaching, because nobody would be in this position. Would you rather spend all your money now or save it to spend later in retirement?

We’re talking, not spending it all and you’re broke. That’s not how we’re thinking, but that’s something people have to work on. How much are they spending? You talked about it earlier. Do you spend every dollar that you make or are you putting some away? I guess that’s the question, isn’t it?

Victor: It is. Would you rather is more like, would you rather spend most of your money now or save more of it to have it in the future? Because people do face those decisions. We’re thinking about Aiden. Aiden in one of the conversations I’ve had with him is “Listen, would you rather spend my money on you undergraduate’s degree or would you rather spend more of it on a graduate degree?”

It’s the same decision, and I think that I would tend to be the same way in terms of the financial decisions for retirement. I’m coaching my kids on and it’s the way I live my life. I’m planning for the rainy day. We’re working towards having flexibility and choice in the future.

Because what you’re trading off by spending more money now and not having it now is autonomy and freedom when the time comes. Especially in a time comes where you can’t manufacture it on your own. What I mean about this is, when you’re in retirement, you can’t go out and get the same job that you had when you were at your best earning potential at that time or you were banking the most dollars.

You just can’t go back and go make a different decision. If we’re planning for the rainy day of retirement, if we’re saving for the future, what we’re saving for to maintain our flexibility, autonomy, freedom, choice, all of those things that we wants in the future.

It’s just as important if you were 18 years old thinking about how much flexibility you want as you’re going to graduate school, like my son is, or if you’re thinking about it from the perspective of retirement. The more that you save for the future, would you rather or I would rather save more for the future, because of what it would buy me.

It’s going to buy me all of the things that I want, which is the ability to make my own choices. Drive my ship where I want it to go and enjoy life that way.

Mark: There are certainly things that we have to spend money on. Groceries would certainly be one. Transportation would be another. There was an opinion piece in MarketWatch that talks about our nation’s love affair with expensive cars and trucks. Are you a car guy at all?

Victor: I really do love cars, Mark. I love where this question is going. Come on, let’s get to this.

Mark: There are people that…I like cars. I really enjoy driving and I would love to have a new Porsche 911, but I can’t afford one, but I can get a 20-year-old one [laughs] and that’s where my bank account rolls. You think about it, those big car payments sometimes can take away our ability to put money aside for retirement.

Victor, for you then, would you rather pay for a big expensive vehicle, which could be important with your three kids and want to take them on trips or put that amount towards your retirement savings every month?

Victor: Yeah. Great. I knew this was where we were going with it, because I get to tell my story of what I actually did so that now I can live my life and integrity off of it. I had a car that was coming off its lease about a year ago and I had the opportunity — the firm that I have is fairly successful — to get essentially whatever car I want.

Not within reason. It’s not going to be a Porsche 911, but I could buy whatever car that I wanted. What I decided to do in that point in time, this is in 2020, let’s say, I decided to buy a three-year-old, a 2017 Mazda3 Hatchback that was a shift for cash. The reason why I wanted to do that, the cost was good for it.

The reason I wanted to do this was because for the period of time, I wanted to be able to bank the dollars and not have the car payments that would otherwise be associated with it. I needed the freedom and the cash flow to save more of that money in place even though I’m a car guy, and even though I like cars.

What that’s allowed me to do — if we’re going to compress my retirement to about two years right now — is have enough savings to be able to go out. I’m really interested in an electrical vehicle now, Mark. I like the Mustang Mach-E. I’m into that right now.

It means that right now I can go and I can buy that for cash and be able to avoid those car payments, because I’ve taken the two years that I didn’t have car payments and saved that for the future. I’m making decisions that are commensurate with my lifestyle, so that now getting to the point where I’m handcuffed by the obligations that I have.

I think that cars factor into that. I also think that we are getting monthly expense bill to debt. We look at every streaming-service cable, subscription for this, pay it for me for the month of that and that is like death by a thousand paper cuts.

I would love walking people through exercises as they enter retirement, because I want them to enjoy what’s going on but I also want them to value what it is that they’re paying for. Sometimes all of the stuff can just spool out of control. We’re looking at the same things.

There are so many things hitting our credit cards or debit cards on a regular basis, monthly basis. They don’t understand how much is going out the door. One of the great exercises to go through is do an annual audit.

I love walking people through an annual audit to say, “Let’s pull out a statement that’s charging you every year and figure out if it still has a place in your life.” If you’re enjoying it, by all means and you can afford it, go for it.

But if it’s just there, because we got lazy and we didn’t recognize it but it doesn’t kill us, every time it gets, it doesn’t bankrupt us every time we’re doing it, maybe you want to excuse it out the door. I think the car falls under the same category, by the way. I don’t think we should be spending too much for it. We should still be saving.

Living within our means for what that would be.

Mark: If you would like to go through that process to find out, do a little audit. [laughs] If you’re spending for the year, you can certainly do that just by calling Victor and the teams. Medina Law Group and Palante Wealth. That’s 856-506-8300. Probably would be an eye-opening experience, would be my guess, 856-506-8300.

Here’s another “Would you rather?” Victor. This one I wonder if it’s changed a little bit. You started the Medina Law Group at ’06. You started Palante Wealth in 2014, and I wonder if this is changing. Here’s the “Would you rather?”

Would you rather spend your money on a vacation home or dream vacation? Those are the same. Vacation home/dream vacation home once you’re in retirement. Or would you rather save it for things like potential nursing home care or other healthcare costs?

Nobody wants to save for that, but they understand…


Victor: I was going to say that.

Mark: Here’s my thing is the old second home idea because a lot of people dream of having that second home, but with the Vrbos now, are more and more people may be moving away from that world?

Victor: Yeah, I think they are. We did it when we were looking for…For the last two years, we found different places to go on vacation. If we had owned one vacation, we would have just gone back to that same one. We’re in the Poconos for one year and then we’re in the Berkshires for another and then now we’re in Cape Cod for another.

We enjoy the ability to move this stuff around. With the Vrbos that’s out there like the non-scummy timeshare, I can move my week wherever I want it to be, and only be obligated to pay for that. No more monthly costs.

Anyway, I would actually rather…I’m going to split the hair off of this, but I think that you can do both if you were planning for this in retirement the right way. What I mean about that is that, if you were to buy a vacation home, for example, and you know that you were going to be using it. Let’s say that it was a grandchild.

I have some people, by the way, that they’re not going to be a vacation home, but it’ll be a condo near one of their kids, so they can be around the grandkids.

What I tell them, in terms of the planning for it, is that asset still has value. It’s actually a false choice because if we invested in that home and that we were there and we were using it, if the time came that we needed it for nursing home expenses, we’d be able to sell that. Maybe, not at a moment’s notice, but that asset still has value, and we’d be able to use that.

What I would lay around on that — and here comes the certified elder law attorney in me — that hat just logically got on. Nobody saw it because this is radio, but the hat just got on.

As I would say that, I would want that home protected inside of a trust because what I would be able to do is if I did some pre-planning, I’d be able to move that home away from the crosshairs of Medicaid and nursing home expenses. I’d be able to use it the way that I want it and didn’t have to spend it down, but I could have liquidate it and use some of it for the long-term care expenses, but you can accomplish both.

Here’s the trick, you’ve got to do it ahead of time, it’s not something you do in a crisis of somebody who’s putting a plan together, needs to see this years before it ever manifests itself.

You need to do it as part of your initial planning. It’s one of the benefits of working with this is that because we have both the legal and the financial under the same roof, where you’re doing both with me and my team.

We’re able to get those two things to work together so that we’ve got you bought your dream home, or your condo, or whatever you want. We’ve got it owned in an irrevocable trust to help you protect it from nursing home expenses.

We’re helping you with advice and navigating that journey with you so that if something happens in the future, we’ll implement that and keep as much protected in getting you as happy in retirement. If you’re happy saving for a nursing home, then you will feel happy when it happens.

Mark: Absolutely. Before we wrap up, you mentioned putting on your elder law hat. I know you have a report at Similar to the other ones we’ve talked about today on the program. What does that one entail the What does that report?

Victor: Yes, so that report, it helps you understand what the impact of long-term care costs would be. In other words, if you were able, if you needed to get sick, and you needed care, home healthcare assisted living.

First of all, it outlines what that world looks like, what the impact of that is, but that also helps you understand how to avoid losing your home to the nursing home, if you need it in the future helps outline what a strategy would be.

If you don’t know anything about this, and by the way, most people don’t when we work with a family and we help explain to them what we can do for asset protection, it’s often the first time that we’re having that conversation.

I will tell you the only time that it’s not the first time is when we’re helping the kids because we helped their mom with this situations. They had that familiarity with it. What the guide allows you to do is understand that world because most people aren’t familiar with it so that you can take action.

Here’s the important part. That world more than anything in the world requires pre-planning in order to avoid a bad result.

If you want to protect assets from nursing home expenses from assisted living, making sure that you’ve got money for both spouses, you need to download Then you’re going to need to take some action with an elder law attorney.

It doesn’t have to be me, but you’re going to need to work with somebody that is a certified elder law attorney that can help you with this planning because this is an area that you shouldn’t be working with somebody.

That is not for the person to help you close to home or fight your neighbor about where the fences, need a specialist in this area but start by learning this information. Download it at All you need is your name and your email. You’ll get that automatically delivered to you.

Victor: You will be well on the way of understanding how to not let your health destroy your family’s wealth.

Mark: I like that. If you have other questions about anything else, “When can I retire? Do I have enough? Will my money last as long as I do? Will my loved ones be OK if something happens to me? At the end of the day when I retire, are we going to be OK?” that’s really what we want to know. Call the team in Medina Law Group and Palante Wealth.

They’re here to help you. 856-506-8300, 856-506-8300. Victor enjoyed it. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. We’ll do it again next week.


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The information and opinions contained herein provided by third parties have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed by Medina Law Group and Palante Wealth Advisors.