AFSA Members Gain Insights on Medicare and Social Security

What’s the number one question asked of 20-plus year Social Security administrator Diana Varela? “When should I retire?”

Her reply is always: “We can’t give you the answer about your life, all we can give you is the tools to make a decision.” In presenting a Medicare and Social Security workshop at this year’s AFSA convention, Ms Varela did just that. She laid out the four facts that everyone must know to make informed choices about how to access their Social Security benefits.

The first fact pointed members to the official social security website, where anyone can access information and tools by creating an account. She pointed out that, “Books and I can tell you the basics, but no one can tell you exactly how much you can get in benefits;” however, online tools can give you information about your benefits, as well as providing tools for estimating other retirement costs.

The second fact she offered was that Social Security was more than just a retirement program. Although the time constraints forced the focus of the presentation on the retirement side of the benefits, Varela mentioned that with sixty-one million people on benefits, only forty-two million are retirees.

The third fact focused on the future, clarifying that, “Yes we will be there”. Despite scares from misinformation or misunderstandings, Varela explains that Social Security is fully funded through 2034 when money would be exhausted if the current track was maintained. Congress, however, has made changes to rules and requirements in order to avoid this.

The final fact that Valera leaves AFSA members with is that Social Security should only be a piece of income during retirement years. Despite seeing many reach retirement age with no other planned source of income, Valera says Social Security benefits should only be 40 percent of retirement net income. Other sources might be work income, pensions, or other savings.

After going into detail about the pros and cons of when or how to receive Social Security benefits, she closed her presentation the same way it began, urging people to use the tools that they have access to. She says to, “Keep reading… you have the right to information”.