Social Security and You from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Mon, 18 Nov 2019 04:31:19 -0800 Social Security and You from Creators Syndicate bccf69549b93d89ec2df490a94e01c56 Filing Date Still Confuses Readers for 11/13/2019 Wed, 13 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Even after writing several recent columns about the issue, I still get many emails from readers confused about which date to choose as the starting date for their Social Security retirement benefits.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">The confusion essentially centers around the fact that Social Security checks are paid one month behind.</span> For example, the Social Security payment for November will be sent to you in December. That's a relatively straightforward rule, but it leads to all kinds of problems, especially when people are filing for their Social Security benefits online. Here is a typical example:<p>Updated: Wed Nov 13, 2019</p> 036963cf92015c4f2c46cdc8ad0aa981 Mailbag Miscellany for 11/06/2019 Wed, 06 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>I usually like to have a theme to my columns. In other words, I will generally just cover one topic and present one or more questions from readers that are related to that subject. But every once in a while, I just like to open my email inbox and pick random questions to answer. Today's column is one of those.</p> <p>Q: I am 79 years old. I haven't worked in years, but last year, I did make some money on the side selling some of my antique furniture. And now I got a letter from Social Security telling me my own benefit is going up by $25 but my widows benefit is going down by $25. This makes absolutely no sense to me. What do you think I should do about this?<p>Updated: Wed Nov 06, 2019</p> 802c85e678436117fa5c7d82d0b77173 Don't Confuse Social Security With SSI for 10/30/2019 Wed, 30 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Every single day, I get emails from people who will say something like this: "My wife and I are getting SSI." Or this: "We have some questions about our SSI checks." Or this: "If I die, will my wife get any of my SSI?"</p> <p>I know from experience these folks think that SSI stands for Social Security Income. Or maybe Social Security Insurance. But it does not. SSI is the abbreviation for Supplemental Security Income. It is a federal welfare program that pays a small monthly stipend to poor people who are either over age 65 or younger than that but disabled. The program just happens to be managed by the Social Security Administration, which leads to all kinds of confusion.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 30, 2019</p> 07a6e50b1da1c61bfb150b9fee359b73 Retroactive Social Security Benefits Explained for 10/23/2019 Wed, 23 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>A few months ago, I briefly discussed the possibility of retroactive Social Security retirement benefits. <span class="column--highlighted-text">But if my email inbox is any indication, I guess I raised more questions than I answered.</span> So today I will tackle the topic in more detail. Although the general rules are fairly simple, it can get a little complicated when you get down to the nitty-gritty of things. </p> <p>In a nutshell, the rules say this: You can collect up to six months' worth of benefits retroactively, but those benefits can't include any reduced retirement payments. Or, to put that another way, you can't get any retroactive benefits if you are under your full retirement age. Here are a few quick examples to help explain the rules. <p>Updated: Wed Oct 23, 2019</p> 9f2fb58bf78c2df36c0000e37943bc67 Clearing Up More Myths and Misunderstandings for 10/16/2019 Wed, 16 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I pointed out in last week's column that there are hundreds of myths and rumors being spread &#8212; mostly on the internet &#8212; about Social Security. Half of them deal with the politics and financing of Social Security. I covered some of those in recent columns. But there are also a multitude of myths about Social Security programs and how they work. Last week, I dealt with myths surrounding Social Security retirement benefits. <span class="column--highlighted-text">This week, I'll take on the rumors that people hear about dependent and survivor benefits.</span></p> <p>Myth: As a wife, I will get half of my husband's Social Security.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 16, 2019</p> 9a3045f0d7eb3b20fd324f81a381e70b Social Security Program Myths for 10/09/2019 Wed, 09 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I could write a book called "The Top 100 Social Security Myths." And that book would be divided into two main sections: 50 political myths and 50 program myths. </p> <p>The political myths deal mostly with the history and financing of Social Security. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Many people, usually with an ax to grind or a chip on their shoulder, publish very biased screeds on the internet that are full of lies and half-truths about the program. </span>They will say things like: "The government has stolen Social Security funds" (it hasn't); "Illegal immigrants collect Social Security benefits" (they don't); or "Social Security sends monthly checks to welfare recipients who never worked and paid into the system" (it doesn't). And then uninformed or naive people pass these missives around from one to another, and soon they go viral and are assumed to be true by millions of Americans. <p>Updated: Wed Oct 09, 2019</p> bad392a61cb34c4e7a356245c39c2257 Seniors Seek Help for Their 'Kids' for 10/02/2019 Wed, 02 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I wrote about this phenomenon about a year ago. And it never ceases to amaze me. I'm referring to the emails I get from readers who are asking Social Security-related questions on behalf of their children. <span class="column--highlighted-text">And when I say "children," I don't mean little tykes who are still wet behind the ears. I'm talking about children who wear hearing aids and belong to AARP!</span></p> <p>I find it hard to believe that I get letters from folks in their 80s and beyond who are seeking Social Security advice for their children who are 60-somethings. When I compare it to my own situation, I'm even more surprised. My wife and I have two kids, both of whom are in their early 40s, with children of their own. Our parenting duties have long since waned, and, for the most part, have been replaced by grandparenting chores. I just can't imagine myself, 20 years down the road, shepherding my kids through the process of signing up for Social Security and Medicare. But perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe the urge to be a good parent &#8212; to provide advice and counsel to your offspring &#8212; never goes away.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 02, 2019</p> 5f0a3f98cd2033c4857e98c655b1681f Divorced Women Surveyed About Social Security for 09/25/2019 Wed, 25 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I've written many columns in the past with messages targeted to divorced women. And I thought I had everything covered. But I got a fascinating email recently from a reader who surveyed women in her area and had some interesting insights as to why those who are divorced were not familiar with the Social Security benefits they might be due from an ex. Or, more intriguing, why they didn't want to file for such benefits even though they knew they existed. So here is a summary of her findings, with my comments.</p> <p>One: Many women were not familiar with their potential benefits as ex-spouses.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 25, 2019</p> 3883deda70f15f638d9b12b1e541b770 Can Senior Citizens Get Social Security Disability Insurance? for 09/18/2019 Wed, 18 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Maybe it's the sign of the times, but I've been getting a lot of emails recently from senior citizens asking if they can get Social Security disability benefits. The answer depends on a variety of factors. It can get a little complicated.</p> <p>But I can begin with some relatively easy answers. If you are over your full retirement age (66 for most people reading this column), you can forget it. Once you reach that age, disability benefits are no longer payable. Or to put that another way, <span class="column--highlighted-text">once you are full retirement age or older, a disability benefit pays the same rate as a retirement benefit.</span> <p>Updated: Wed Sep 18, 2019</p> 19891b33d28adc5799bfa0befe166804 More SSA Blunders for 09/11/2019 Wed, 11 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I recently came across a Facebook page dedicated to Social Security Administration retirees. I decided not to join it because one of its tenets was this: "Never criticize the work being done by current SSA employees." I really don't like writing columns that are critical of my former colleagues who work in local SSA field offices or telephone centers. But doggone it! <span class="column--highlighted-text">I hear from readers every week who have been misled or misinformed by agency representatives. And I would be remiss if I didn't point out the errors and set the record straight.</span> Here are a few examples from just this week's mailbag.</p> <p>Q: I will be 66 in October. I continue to work and make about $140,000 per year. I wanted to start my Social Security in October. And you told me that I could do it. You said even though I make well over the $46,920 earnings limit, that limit no longer applies when I turn 66. So I went to my local Social Security office to file, and I was told by a nice young man that I am not due any benefits this year because I make too much money. He told me that I must wait until January 2020 to file, which is what I now plan to do. When I asked to see the rules in writing, he told me they cannot share that information, but he assured me that he was right. So I'm sorry, but you are giving out incorrect information. But still, I really wish I could see something in writing.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 11, 2019</p> 66f5128ae729c268753d256c6cd056da I Can't Get Involved in Personal Social Security Cases for 09/04/2019 Wed, 04 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Over the more than 20 years that I've been writing this column, I'm sure I've helped tens of thousands of people get a better understanding of the Social Security system. But one thing I can't do is get involved in a reader's personal Social Security case. Yet, every single day, I get emails from readers asking me to do just that. </p> <p>One very unhappy reader told me that she is getting disability benefits but there is some kind of mix-up involving unpaid student loans. She said that the government held back some of her Social Security benefits to repay these overdue college loans. But she claims she has already paid off the loans. She asked for my help in getting her Social Security money back.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">In another email, a reader went off on a long rant about how the Social Security Administration was supposedly incorrectly holding back some of her Social Security check </span>to repay an overpayment. I guess she's been haggling with SSA over this issue for a long time. She wanted me get involved and "do something!"<p>Updated: Thu Sep 05, 2019</p> e3b5d04daf6a4317902d0509efaad119 Social Security Clickbait for 08/28/2019 Wed, 28 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p>I'm sure you've seen these teaser links on the internet that sometimes can be too irresistible to ignore. They have catchy titles like "20 celebrities who have a secret past" or "10 common foods that will kill you." This is called "clickbait." Essentially, it's a form of false advertisement designed to entice people to follow a link to read or view some content that is disingenuous at best and totally misleading at worst. </p> <p>Well, here are a couple examples of Social Security clickbait I saw online just this morning: "Three Social Security secrets no one knows" and "The secret to how you are losing out on $3.4 trillion in Social Security." </p> <p>Do you notice a common theme? The key word is "secret." I guess secrets sell. But when it comes to Social Security, there really aren't any secrets. There might be some information of which you are not yet aware. But all of that information is readily available, from places like the Social Security Administration website (, a local financial planner or from reading this column.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 28, 2019</p> ff7db8940af470a3905b8be2612fa6b8 Don't Fall for This Latest Social Security Scam for 08/21/2019 Wed, 21 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Before I get to today's questions, I must point out a phone scam that is currently going on that involves Social Security. Quite a few readers have reported this scam to me. And then just this week, I was a victim, too. Here is the message that all the readers and I heard on our phones:</p> <p>"This call is from the Department of Social Security. The reason you have received this phone call from our department is to inform you that we just suspend your Social Security number because we found some suspicious activity. So if you want to know about this case, just press one. Thank you."<p>Updated: Wed Aug 21, 2019</p> eaee1fccf41e86a987664a9b2d44d3d0 Don't Listen to Friends and Neighbors About Social Security for 08/14/2019 Wed, 14 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I've said this before and written columns about this before. Do NOT listen to your friends and neighbors when it comes to Social Security advice. Whatever they are telling you is probably wrong. Here is another batch of questions saved up from this week's mailbag that proves my point.</p> <p>Q: My sister's husband died on July 24. He was 76 and started getting his benefits at 65. He was getting $1,920. She is 70 and is getting her own $1,250, which she started at age 62. One of our best friends told her that because she took her own benefits at 62, she isn't due any widow's benefits. Is this true? <p>Updated: Wed Aug 14, 2019</p> 6863d2011b38347b10ed2ddc315040a4 You Don't Have to Be Old to Get Social Security for 08/07/2019 Wed, 07 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>If you were to play a word association game and the phrase "Social Security" came up, I bet many of you would answer "old people" or "senior citizens." It's normal to associate Social Security with old folks because, well, the majority of Social Security beneficiaries are just that. But about 30% of people getting a monthly check from Social Security are nowhere near their golden years. For example, <span class="column--highlighted-text">there are about 5 million children who get Social Security on a living or deceased parent's account.</span> And there are another 10 million people who get Social Security disability benefits. I've saved up some questions that deal with those aspects of Social Security for today's column.</p> <p>Q: I am 62 and not working. I was planning to wait until age 70 to start my Social Security. But I have a 32-year-old son who has had severe physical and mental problems since birth. He is living with us. My wife is 58 and has never worked outside the home because she has been a full-time caregiver for our son. He has never worked and never will. Is there a way I can sign my son up for my Social Security now and still save my own until I'm 70?<p>Updated: Wed Aug 07, 2019</p> 361af7600935977591ee42aeb672d7eb Privatizing Social Security for 07/31/2019 Wed, 31 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I am doing a school report on plans to privatize Social Security. What can you tell me about this?</p> <p>A: That's a topic that used to be all the rage back in the 1980s and 1990s. But ever since the almost catastrophic financial crash in the late 2000s, saying you want to turn Social Security over to Wall Street brokers (i.e., to "privatize" Social Security in the traditional sense of the term) is like saying you want some monkeys with a dart board to make financial decisions about our nation's primary means of supporting older folks, people with disabilities and surviving widows, widowers and children. <p>Updated: Wed Jul 31, 2019</p> 51fda78b2b3ed46c4d214a4aaff3e9b5 Women and Social Security for 07/24/2019 Wed, 24 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Most women have a different relationship with Social Security than men do. Why is that? After all, almost no Social Security rules are gendered. For example, retirement benefits are figured the same way for men and women. Spousal benefits are also gender-neutral. In other words, a woman can qualify for benefits as a wife or widow in the same way that a man can qualify for benefits as a husband or widower.</p> <p>But even though Social Security's rules treat men and women equally, society and history have not. Men tend to work longer and have more years of earnings on their Social Security records. In part, that's because women bear more of the burden of child rearing and spend more years out of the paid workforce. And statistically, men tend to earn more than women, giving them higher earnings on their Social Security records.<p>Updated: Wed Jul 24, 2019</p> 38b9164636d248b2319c01d499f296f5 Vets Being Duped By Social Security Rumor Mill for 07/17/2019 Wed, 17 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Not a week goes by when I don't get emails, such as the one here, from veterans who have been led to believe that they are missing out on extra Social Security benefits allegedly payable to people who served in the military:</p> <p>"Tom: I've been told that as a veteran, I should be getting an extra $120 per month added to my Social Security check. They said all I have to do is take my DD 214 (military discharge papers) down to my local Social Security office and they will start paying me the extra money. What can you tell me about this?"<p>Updated: Wed Jul 17, 2019</p> 6901f7a33a50884c52de03414e0fb264 Two Views of Social Security From the 1970s for 07/10/2019 Wed, 10 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>My sister lives in a home she inherited from my mother after my mom died in the early 1990s. She was recently cleaning out the basement, and in a far corner, she found a box my mom had labeled, "Tom's writings." It was full of essays and other reports I'd written while in grade school, high school and college. There were also clippings of Social Security-related artiicles I wrote occasionally for newspapers and magazines &#8212; long before I started writing this weekly column.</p> <p>My sister sent the box to me. And going through it brought back many memories from my early days working for the Social Security Administration. I'm going to share two of them with you today. <p>Updated: Wed Jul 10, 2019</p> 5c9f852c0a25eecc20be2d4fb5db8532 Filing for Social Security Benefits for 07/03/2019 Wed, 03 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I get lots of questions about the mechanics of filing for Social Security benefits. Some of the questions seem very basic to me. But then I remind myself that even though I've been doing this stuff for 45 years, for most of my readers, filing for Social Security is an overwhelming and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are some questions from overwhelmed people.</p> <p>Q: I am turning 62 in November and plan to start my Social Security benefits then. When and how should I file? Friends have told me I need to start the process at least six months ahead of time because it takes the government that long to get things right.<p>Updated: Wed Jul 03, 2019</p>