For Mark Roberts’ Use: One day, Social Security benefits will comprise an important part of your retirement plan. But most of us tend to assume our benefits will be there when we planned, and forget to stay updated on important news about the program.

While no one has made any drastic changes to Social Security at this point, policymakers do change things up a bit at times. Next year, we will see the following four changes to the system, and some of you might need to adjust your plans.

Married couples have fewer options. In the past, the lower-earning spouse could claim spousal benefits while allowing their own benefit amount to continue growing. Then, he or she could switch to that higher benefit amount at a later date. Now, we no longer have the option to change between benefit types. You will only be able to collect spousal benefits or your own benefit – whichever is higher – and you have to stick with it.

The earnings limit for retirees has been raised. If you plan to claim your benefits before reaching full retirement age, but continuing to work, this news will affect you. Each year, you can earn up to a certain amount before some of your benefits are withheld. Next year that earnings limit has been raised a bit, from $15,720 to $16,920.

The maximum taxable earnings limit for workers has also been raised. Social Security is funded through taxes, so beneficiaries are relying upon taxpayers to support the system. In the past, workers paid 6.2 percent of their earnings, up to an income limit of $118,500. Earnings over that limit are not subject to Social Security taxes. In 2017, the limit has been raised to $127,200, meaning more income will be taxed to fund the program.

The average payment will increase by a small amount. You might expect that your Social Security benefits will always be adjusted upward each year, to account for rising costs of living. And it is true that each fall, the Administration usually announces a cost of living adjustment to begin with January checks. But in some years, the adjustment could be disappointingly small. In 2017, beneficiaries will receive checks that are 0.3 percent larger. That’s about five dollars, on average.

These are just four major changes to Social Security that will take effect in January. Some smaller changes might also affect your retirement plans, schedule an appointment with us to learn more. Because the system does change regularly, it’s important to review and update your retirement plan accordingly.