For most other tools, Elsasser said there is a vast difference between the information consumers can access on their own and that which they can get with the help of a financial advisor.
“A consumer doesn’t know what they don’t know,” Elsasser said. “They also can’t spot the situations where they might be forgetting an important input and as a result get an answer that is just wrong.”
Covisum’s tool, called Social Security Timing, works to help advisors control the assumptions with which they are calculating benefits at a granular level, according to Elsasser.
That includes the ability to take specific rules into account, such as the government pension offset, the windfall elimination provision or the earnings test.
As years go by, the tool will re-calculate benefits estimates with the most current earnings history.
The tool costs $50 per month, or $500 per year for financial advisors.
There is also a version of the tool on Social Security Timing’s website that consumers can try out.
Results from the consumer version include the earliest claiming strategy and a suggested claiming strategy. It does not take into account some of the more complex nuances included in the advisor version.
“The intent is for people to begin to understand the decision,” Elsasser said.
Ideally, a consumer will try out several calculators to get an idea of the kinds of results they can get and factors to keep in mind, Elsasser said.
Those results should also provide fodder for questions for consumers to ask their financial advisor to gauge their expertise, he said.
One question consumers should ask to get started, according to Elsasser, is “Do you have a process for analyzing all of my options when it comes to claiming Social Security, and can you outline that process for me?”