For many current retirees, social security is their main source of income. The average American entering retirement no longer has a pension, so social security has become more important than ever. But for those who are a long way from receiving benefits, we encourage you to look at things a little differently.

Now more than ever the onus has shifted to the employee rather than the employer to save and generate income for retirement. Nearly gone are the days of receiving a company pension and social security.  401(k) and other defined contribution programs have become the primary vehicle for retirement savings and social security has become the sidecar. Many younger folks even wonder if social security will be around when they retire. While we don’t think that it will go away anytime soon, it is justifiable to be concerned about what benefits may look like when you go to collect.

Nonetheless, understanding your social security benefits is crucial in the process of planning for your retirement. A great place to start is You can access information such as full retirement age and projections of benefits based on reported earnings history. You can dig into applicable topics that may reduce your projected benefits. Events like becoming widowed are covered in detail. As you may find out, it can be far from simple when considering things like the Government Pension Offset or the Windfall Elimination Provision. Benefits to your children or ex-spouses are also covered.

And then there’s the topic of taxation. How much of your benefit is taxable? How does the Earnings Test apply if you take benefits early? As you can see, there are countless variables, and we aren’t even scratching the surface. The best practice is to become financially independent and write your own ticket to retirement. Plan on social security as a supplement to your primary retirement income.

The Sidecar

8 parts Cognac or Armagnac

2 parts lemon juice

1 part Cointreau or triple sec

Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon, if desired.