Robert D Barnes/Moment Open/Getty Images

Robert D Barnes/Moment Open/Getty Images

The classic 3-legged stool of retirement income has been Social Security, a pension and retirement savings.

Employers have moved away from offering pension plans with their defined benefits to offering defined contribution plans where the employee contributes from his or her salary and the employer may offer a matching contribution to a 401(k).

Is the 3-legged stool now a 2-legged stool?

Maybe not when seniors decide to tap the equity in their home with a reverse mortgage. They aren’t for everyone, but it’s my expectation that they will become increasingly important as a source of retirement income to seniors over time. Reverse mortgages may become the 3rd leg of the stool.

Can you hold off taking Social Security?

Readers of this blog know that I advocate delaying Social Security until at least full retirement age for most seniors, and for couples it may make sense for the spouse with the better wage history to wait until age 70 to claim benefits, earning delayed retirement credits that will increase Social Security retirement benefits by 8% for each year they delay up to age 70.

Social Security rules are changing

The federal government is in the process of eliminating some Social Security claiming strategies, like being able to file and suspend, allowing your spouse to claim a spousal benefit at full retirement age while you earn delayed retirement credit.

This Bankrate feature talks about the changes and when they kick in.

The Maximize My Social Security website points out that “People born on or before May 1, 1950 will be the least affected, although if they plan to suspend their retirement benefit and still allow others to collect auxiliary benefits based on their record (that is, spousal and child benefits) during suspension, they must request benefit suspension no later than April 29, 2016.”

Work with a private consultant like Maximize My Social Security or Social Security Solutions, if you need help sorting things out.

Find your best solution

There’s not one right answer for everyone. That’s why they call it personal finance. While you can get a reverse mortgage at 62, for most seniors it will make sense to wait since the monthly interest expense gets added to the loan balance each month.

Waiting until at least full retirement age to claim Social Security will make sense for most seniors, too.

For those without a pension plan, that makes retirement savings the front line in financing the early retirement years. For seniors worried about outliving their retirement income, a qualifying longevity annuity contract can make sense.

Spending some time estimating your retirement income needs, including health care expenses, is a good 1st step. If you don’t know what you’ll need, it’s hard to decide how to tap your sources of retirement income over your lifetime.

What’s your retirement income plan?

Follow me on Twitter: @drdonsays