Social Security and You from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Sun, 16 Dec 2018 05:54:33 -0800 Social Security and You from Creators Syndicate 0932c7af908e339668a29fe1f56ac166 Married More Than Once for 12/12/2018 Wed, 12 Dec 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>I got to chatting with someone about 30 years younger than me the other day at our local library. We were sharing stories about our lives and careers and families. He expressed surprise at two elements of my life that I just thought of as sort of normal. I told him I had worked for the Social Security Administration for about 33 years. And I also mentioned that my wife and I recently celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. He told me that younger people no longer work at the same job for more than five years. And he said he didn't know anyone who had been married to the same person for more than 15 years. </p> <p>Of course those are just one person's observations. I have no idea if they are indicative of today's lifestyles. But when I got home and opened up my email folder, just coincidentally, the first batch of mail I read came from folks who were married more than once and had questions about how that impacted their Social Security. Here they are.<p>Updated: Wed Dec 12, 2018</p> c42db1d900b3553c87ca1abc2c4cb0f9 Is That Social Security Glass Half Full or Half Empty? for 12/05/2018 Wed, 05 Dec 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>It's always fascinating to me how people can look at the same situation and see things totally differently. For example, I look in the mirror and see Brad Pitt's slightly older brother starting back at me. But my wife looks at me and sees a grizzled old Gabby Hayes look-alike! </p> <p>But I digress. We've all heard of the proverbial "Is the glass half full or half empty?" question. That's kind of what I'm talking about. Some people see the positive side of things. And some see only negatives. And given the nature of this column, I'm thinking about how this relates to Social Security-related scenarios. Coincidentally, my email inbox this week contains several examples of this.<p>Updated: Wed Dec 05, 2018</p> 132294e63eb0391842db55f36a44573e Taking Your Benefits at Age 62 for 11/28/2018 Wed, 28 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Q: In a recent column, you said that most people retiring today are waiting until 70 to start their Social Security. But I read an article in USA Today quoting Social Security Administration statistics stating the majority of retirees take their Social Security at 62. Where did you get your information?</p> <p>A: Yes, you are right and so is USA Today. What I meant to say in that column is that based on the emails I get, it seems to me that most people are waiting until 70. The vast majority of people who email me are asking questions about maximizing their Social Security benefits and that usually involves waiting until age 70 to claim the extra 32 percent in "delayed retirement credits" that are added to a person's monthly Social Security check. <p>Updated: Wed Nov 28, 2018</p> 450765fa217430cc035e983dbdf763a5 My Advice: Get a Voodoo Doll or Marry an Old Goat! for 11/21/2018 Wed, 21 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Q: I am 64 years old. I was married to a man who was 15 years younger than me. He was a lawyer and made really good money. I married him for love. I'm really not sure why he married me. Anyway, we got divorced a few years ago. And now that I'm pushing Social Security age, I realize what a big mistake I made. He told me he plans to work until he is 70. My own Social Security benefit is very small &#8212; about $300. And the Social Security people told me I can't get any benefits from my ex until he files for benefits. My goodness, I will be almost 85. What advice do you have for me?</p> <p>A: Well, I hope your young husband was worth it in other ways! Because he is totally worthless to you from a Social Security perspective, at least for a long time to come. So I've got two bits of advice. First, you could stick pins in a voodoo doll representing your ex and wish him bad luck in the health department. Or you could marry the first old goat you can find. Better yet, make that an old goat with one of his hooves already halfway in the grave! Now let me explain.<p>Updated: Wed Nov 21, 2018</p> e52f7883c61a0d4ae55064674e99f37b Not Your Same Old Same Old Questions for 11/14/2018 Wed, 14 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p>As my regular readers know, I sometimes worry that I am getting too repetitious &#8212; giving the same answers to the same questions that I've been getting for the 20-plus years that I've been writing this column. </p> <p>Several readers have told me to stop fretting. They point out that more often than not, new readers are learning a lot. And even long-time readers can't possibly remember all the rules and regulations associated with Social Security. So a little redundancy in the topics I cover is a good thing.</p> <p>Well, even with that good advice from my faithful readers, today's column is one I don't have to worry about. It's filled with questions I've never covered before because the situations they involve are so unusual.<p>Updated: Wed Nov 14, 2018</p> 44d9a4ec5f0d575b9223e263d9b6f6b3 Public Employee Offsets for 11/07/2018 Wed, 07 Nov 2018 00:00:00 -0800 <p>It may surprise some of my readers to learn that about 10 percent of Americans work at jobs that are not covered by Social Security. Usually these are state and local government jobs. Why is that? Because back when Social Security laws were enacted in the 1930s, Congress felt that they could not force a federal pension plan (Social Security) on state and local governments. So they gave them the option of joining Social Security or not. Most did. But some did not. And still today, there are some large groups of employees, such as teachers in some states and police officers and firefighters in other states, who don't pay into Social Security.</p> <p>Also, federal government employees were initially not covered by Social Security because they had their own civil service pension system in place. But all federal employees hired since 1984 pay into Social Security. However, there are still some old feds out there (hired before 1984) who are not in Social Security. </p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">Folks who spend the bulk of their careers in jobs not covered by Social Security are potentially subject to a couple of offsets that impact either their own Social Security benefit (based on Social Security-covered work they did outside of their regular job) or any benefits they potentially might be due from their spouse's Social Security record. </span>There always has been a great deal of confusion and misinformation around those offsets. If you are potentially impacted by these offsets, today's column will help. <p>Updated: Wed Nov 07, 2018</p> 7cd11fcffa208c6904bc73e08e38b3ee Older Seniors Trying to Help Their 'Kids' With Social Security for 10/31/2018 Wed, 31 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I am always amazed by the emails I get from older senior citizens trying to help their children deal with Social Security issues. I am talking about parents in their late 80s and beyond who are asking Social Security-related questions on behalf of their 60-something "kids." </p> <p>Gosh! I sometimes feel out of place offering advice to my 42-year-old son and 40-year-old daughter, both of whom have spouses and children of their own. I can't even imagine doing the same when I'm in a nursing home and they are pushing Social Security age! Oh, well. I guess the urge to want to help your offspring lasts as long as you are alive.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 31, 2018</p> 39e0273ddfdfdfb6dcf608a692cb0426 Filing for Social Security Is a Big Deal for 10/24/2018 Wed, 24 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>I have to constantly remind myself that filing for Social Security benefits is a big deal for almost everyone. After all, it's something you usually do only once in your life. (Although there are some people who might file twice. For example, a woman who applies for retirement benefits in her 60s and then goes back to the Social Security office in her 80s to file for widow's benefits.)</p> <p>But the point is, it's a rare and significant occasion for most people. And I have to remind myself of that is because I'm so used to helping people who have plans to apply for benefits. I worked for the Social Security Administration for more than 30 years and have written this column for 20 years. So I have helped literally tens of thousands of people sign up for Social Security. I could do it in my sleep! (Actually, I really do. Believe it or not, instead of dreaming about alluring women or exotic beach locales, I dream about Social Security scenarios all the time.)</p> <p>So there are many elements of Social Security eligibility, or many facets of filing for Social Security benefits, that I just take for granted. And when I get some basic or elementary questions from people, my first instinct is to say, "Duh, the answer is so obvious!" But then I remind myself that for the person asking the question, it is not so elemental at all. Filing for Social Security is a big and new and important part of his or her life and the person just wants to make sure to get it all right.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 24, 2018</p> 8e77ef61f587350cb5eac07865efd8d5 Disability Benefits: One Question Leads to Another for 10/17/2018 Wed, 17 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I don't understand. I was getting Social Security disability benefits. But I found a job that I could do. It paid me not much more than minimum wage. But because I made about $18,000 last year, I ended up losing my disability. Yet I just read a story about someone who won $50,000 in our state lottery. This person was getting disability benefits, and she kept those benefits. I made $18,000 and lost my checks. What's wrong with this picture?</p> <p>A: What's wrong is that you don't understand what Social Security disability benefits are meant to do or how they work.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 17, 2018</p> c27bfcf6d46602400559de2fe74f31c0 Gambling and Losing the Social Security Game for 10/10/2018 Wed, 10 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I have written many columns cautioning people to not play around too much with their Social Security benefits by trying to squeeze every last nickel out of their nest egg.</p> <p>And I know where the compulsion to do this comes from. Senior citizens are barraged with messages in the mail, in media and online, telling them that they are missing out on thousands of dollars in benefits if they don't employ some kind of "maximizing" strategy. And then they are encouraged to attend seminars or buy books that supposedly will tell them the secrets to this hidden treasure trove of benefits. <p>Updated: Wed Oct 10, 2018</p> be7d2557761ed4cd4df9dcf726c3b493 Who Do You Trust? for 10/03/2018 Wed, 03 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>You know how sometimes one thing can lead to another? The other day, I was watching Jay Leno's TV show, "Jay Leno's Garage." He was driving around in a car once owned by his "Tonight Show" predecessor, Johnny Carson. It was a car that Johnny grew up with &#8212; his father's 1939 Chrysler. Jay mentioned that Johnny had once done a TV special in which he drove that Chrysler back to Norfolk, Nebraska, and took viewers on a tour of his hometown.</p> <p>I remembered that show, so later that night, I rewatched it on YouTube. <span class="column--highlighted-text">And, as I said, one thing leads to another, and I next watched a couple episodes of Johnny's TV debut, a program called "Who Do You Trust?"</span> </p> <p>So what's all of this have to do with Social Security? Well that show's title got me to thinking about emails I get from my readers. They frequently tell me what they heard from a representative at their local Social Security office. And, more often than I hoped would be necessary, I tell them that what they were told (or maybe what they thought they were told) is wrong. <p>Updated: Fri Oct 05, 2018</p> 14cf10f91510c1d2e1f3191ff4e6b155 Attaining Your Age for 09/26/2018 Wed, 26 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>A few weeks ago, I wrote a column in which I casually mentioned the obscure common law (not a Social Security law) that says that you actually attain your age on the day before your birthdate. For example, I will celebrate my 70th birthday on June 22, 2019. But legally, I will turn age 70 on June 21. </p> <p>I said that from a Social Security perspective, that law usually doesn't mean anything unless you were born on the first day of the month. For those lucky people, it can mean an extra Social Security check. For example, if you want your Social Security checks to begin at age 66, and your 66th birthday is Oct. 1, you legally attain age 66 on Sept. 30, meaning your first Social Security check will be for September, not October. <p>Updated: Wed Sep 26, 2018</p> b99d5d310f370f1351f3b7cb53d0725c Widows Have Questions About Social Security for 09/19/2018 Wed, 19 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I was getting my own Social Security. Then my husband died and they started paying me his Social Security and took away my own. But why did they do that? Aren't they two separate benefits and I deserve both?</p> <p>A: The law says if you are due two different Social Security benefits, you don't get them both. You only get the one that pays the higher rate. And if you think about it, the law makes sense. Without it, everyone in the country who is married or who has ever been married would get two full benefits &#8212; their own and something from their spouse. So I would get my own Social Security check and I also would get a husband's benefit on my wife's account. And then she would get her own benefit and a wife's benefit on my account. And then Warren Buffet would get his own retirement check and a husband's benefit on his wife's account. And Warren's wife would get ... I think you see where I'm going with this. If the law allowed everyone to get every benefit he or she is due, the Social Security system would have gone belly up a long time ago.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 19, 2018</p> ce20e8c2bf7625c0bd37220d4bbb8117 The 'Who Took My Money' Blog Is All Lies for 09/12/2018 Wed, 12 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>A nasty and pernicious blog that is full of lies about Social Security has been floating around the internet for years. The latest version is called "Who took my money?" It claims to be bipartisan, but using one lie after another, it blames the Democrats for all of Social Security's perceived problems. Let me address the allegations one by one.</p> <p>It starts out with a brand-new twist. And it's a whopper. It says that President Kennedy used Social Security money to create the Peace Corps and that since then, "our Social Security money has been taken from Americans and given to foreign nations." Later in the column, I will address the issue of Social Security financing, But for now just take my word for it &#8212; this Peace Corps story is pure bunk! </p> <p>The blogger then takes several swipes at Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who introduced America to Social Security as part of his New Deal in the 1930s. He claims that FDR promised that Social Security would be voluntary. Although there was some discussion of making it voluntary in the very early stages of planning, everyone, including FDR, quickly realized that for a national social insurance system to work, it had to be mandatory &#8212; as are all other Social Security programs around the world.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 12, 2018</p> e62e94cf14b9280845b8e9b32eb124ae Don't Get Hung Up About Maximizing Your Social Security for 09/05/2018 Wed, 05 Sep 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I am a single woman who is going to be 70 on Nov. 10, 2018. I have been waiting until I turn 70 to collect my Social Security because so many people have told me that's how I will get the maximum Social Security benefit. I am trying to fill out my application online and am confused. It is giving me options when to start. It said I could start my benefits this month or in November. Another option was to start my benefits in March. I don't want options. I just want the highest benefit I can get, which is supposed to be $2,740 per month at age 70. What do I do?</p> <p>A: If you really want that $2,740 monthly Social Security check, then just say you want your benefits to begin effective with the month you turn 70. In other words, choose November.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 05, 2018</p> 49302f4baf68cdc3c5dfcb4fed024590 Don't Listen to Your Friends About Social Security for 08/29/2018 Wed, 29 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>I get dozens of emails each week from people who are getting advice from friends and neighbors about Social Security. And so often, what they hear from these probably well-intentioned folks is wrong. I've saved up some examples and will share them with you today.</p> <p>Q: I took my Social Security at 62 and so did my husband. We are now in our early 70s. I have so many friends who tell me that they plan to take spousal benefits at 62 and then at 66, switch to full benefits on their own record. And they wonder why I never did this. Did I do something wrong?</p> <p>A: The only thing you did wrong is listen to your friends. I'm sure they are nice people, but they know absolutely nothing about Social Security. With one exception, no one can do what they claim they plan to do. You can't take spousal benefits at 62 and then later switch to full benefits on your own Social Security account.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 29, 2018</p> 7c548cabc59a58c53953ac08adde2326 Date of Birth Issues for 08/22/2018 Wed, 22 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>There are several key factors that make you eligible for Social Security benefits and help determine the amount of money you are due. One of the most important is your date of birth. Because you have to be a precise age to qualify for retirement benefits (e.g., 66 for full benefits or 62 for reduced benefits), you have to prove your date of birth to the Social Security Administration. </p> <p>When I started working for SSA back in the early 1970s, this wasn't always a simple process. Many people retiring back then (these would have been folks born in the early 1900s) did not have a birth certificate. And I don't mean they lost it or couldn't find it. I mean their birth was never recorded in official government records. So we had to resort to creative ways to help people prove their date of birth. For example, we would search church, school or census records.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 22, 2018</p> 1614de37210f42f3cb7639b46201eff1 Peculiar Divorces Lead to Peculiar Social Security Scenarios for 08/15/2018 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: My husband and I got married 30 years ago. About 25 years ago, we got a divorce. But a year and a half later, almost on a whim, we got remarried. But we never got any kind of papers from the minister who remarried us. Frankly, I'm not really sure he was an actual minister. Is this going to be a problem now that we are about to turn 62 and want to sign up for Social Security? My husband worked all his life. I mostly stayed home.</p> <p>A: You've got an interesting story, and possibly a troubling dilemma with respect to any potential wife's and eventually widow's benefits you might be due on your husband's Social Security account.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 15, 2018</p> 689dbdbc2c7d10fa06fb9d050786c6be Senior Citizens Who Never Signed Up for Social Security for 08/08/2018 Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I am 73 years old. I never signed up for Social Security, because I just never needed it. I am fortunate enough to be independently wealthy. I inherited a multimillion-dollar business from my father, who had inherited it from his father. We have way more than enough money to live comfortably for the rest of our lives, and to provide nest eggs for our children and grandchildren. So again, I just don't need the money. However, my wife keeps encouraging me to file for my Social Security. But my thinking is that since we don't need the money, I should let it stay in the Social Security funds and it can be of more use for other less fortunate Social Security recipients. I'd like your take on this.</p> <p>A: That certainly is noble thinking on your part. But honestly, it's just a little misguided. Your monthly Social Security benefit would be about $3,000 per month. That's a lot of money. But it's dwarfed by the magnitude of the trillion-dollar Social Security trust funds. Your benefits are such a teeny tiny drop in the Social Security bucket that letting your money remain in those funds really has no effect and does nothing "for other less fortunate Social Security recipients."<p>Updated: Wed Aug 08, 2018</p> e4f0268db6b1e99ef22774f5a4c3423b Is Social Security a Welfare Program? for 08/01/2018 Wed, 01 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: Recently, I was listening to a radio program in which the host described Social Security as a welfare program. He said millions of people are getting benefits they never paid for and don't deserve. I'd like to get your opinion on this. Is Social Security welfare?</p> <p>A: Well, I guess it all depends on how you define "welfare." If you mean it in the narrow sense of someone getting free government benefits that they may never have paid for, then that certainly is not what Social Security is. But if you define "welfare" in broader terms as a government program designed to provide for the general good of its citizens, then I would definitely put Social Security in that category.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 01, 2018</p>