'Understanding Social Security: A Look at the Bigger Picture' Feb. 28 in Oak Brook

  • Jim Flanagan, retirement expert and founder of Bentron Financial Group, leads a free program at the Oak Brook Public Library on Wednesday, Feb. 28.

    Jim Flanagan, retirement expert and founder of Bentron Financial Group, leads a free program at the Oak Brook Public Library on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Courtesy of Matt Baron

Updated 2/9/2018 2:25 PM

Are you or is someone you know ready to begin receiving Social Security? If you are going to collect Social Security benefits in the next 10 years, invest an hour on Wednesday, Feb. 28, in Oak Brook for a free session led by a retirement expert.

Starting at 7 p.m., Jim Flanagan of Bentron Financial Group offers a lively presentation at the Oak Brook Public Library, 600 Oak Brook Road. The session will help people gauge where their unique circumstances fit into the bigger Social Security picture.


To preregister for the event, call the library at (630) 368-7725 or visit the library's website at www.oak-brook.org.

Flanagan's talk covers a range of topics, including the benefits of taking Social Security, when to begin taking them to maximize your return, how the benefits are affected when you work while receiving them, taxation of Social Security benefits, and spousal/widow benefits.

The session is for those who have not yet begun receiving Social Security benefits. Whether you are 10 years shy of eligibility or are eligible already and mulling when to begin the process, the interactive meeting will span a range of relevant issues.

The founder of Bentron Financial Group, based in Downers Grove, Flanagan has been advising people at or near retirement age for more than 20 years. For the past 15 years his specialties have included counsel on how and when to tap into Social Security benefits.

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One of the biggest reasons for the session, said Flanagan, is to correct flawed counsel that has permeated the industry for years: "The thinking used to be, 'Who knows how long you're going to live? Get the money as quick as you can,'" Flanagan noted.

But that strategy flies in the face of the population's increasing longevity. Those in their 60s, Flanagan said, should anticipate living another 30 years.

"People are living so much longer than they ever have before," said Flanagan. "And unlike your investment accounts, your Social Security check stays the same or goes up over time. It's a check that you can never outlive and it's vital that you look hard at your best strategy to get the biggest check for the longest period of time."

Currently, the earliest age you can collect Social Security is 62. However, your benefit is reduced by 30 percent if you begin taking Social Security that early -- and by the time you are 72 to 75, the advantage of early benefits has evaporated.


The normal age for beginning to receive benefits is 67 and the latest you can defer is 70. A typical monthly Social Security check is now climbing toward $1,500, though there is nothing typical about any given individual, Flanagan emphasized.

"These blanket strategies for approaching Social Security simply don't work," he said. "Everyone's situation is so unique and specific."

To anyone who is skeptical that Social Security will remain intact in the coming years, Flanagan has a firm message: "I believe strongly that Social Security will be around for future generations. We need to believe that and we need to demand that."

Bentron Financial Group is online at www.bentron.com.

In 2005, Flanagan joined the Oak Park/River Forest Township Senior Services Committee, for which he has served as chairman since 2008. In 2010, he founded the Celebrating Seniors Coalition, a nonprofit organization that, among other services, helps seniors with emergency needs and raises public awareness of issues affecting seniors in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.

This year's Celebrating Seniors Week, featuring dozens of educational and entertaining events, goes from Thursday, April 26 to Thursday, May 3. For more information, visit www.CelebratingSeniors.net.

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