Social Security and You from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Tue, 25 Sep 2018 07:01:58 -0700 Social Security and You from Creators Syndicate 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> 72bd468adeda02493b70955840d429a6 Reduced Benefit Rates for 07/25/2018 Wed, 25 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: Whenever you mention the reduction for early retirement, you always say it is "about one half of 1 percent." So what is it? Is it one half of 1 percent? Or is it something else? Why the ambiguity?</p> <p>A: In this case, I think my ambiguous answer is better than the facts. And the facts are these: Retirement benefits are reduced five-ninths of 1 percent for the first 36 months of early retirement and five-twelfths of 1 percent for any additional months.<p>Updated: Wed Jul 25, 2018</p> 5590a979134b6b46b67e0ba3a4ca684d The 'Ex' Factor and Social Security for 07/18/2018 Wed, 18 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: My ex-wife was getting divorced spouse benefits on my account. She recently died. How do I go about getting her benefits added back into my account?</p> <p>A: There is nothing to add back to your account. Social Security benefits paid to divorced spouses, and for that matter, benefits paid to any dependent spouse or child, are merely add-on benefits. They don't take a nickel away from anything the primary account holder is due. So now that she has died, her checks merely stop. No other adjustments to your Social Security record are necessary. <p>Updated: Wed Jul 18, 2018</p> 5773bf3518739bf44ba180ca96e618f7 Widows Must Sign Up for Benefits in Person for 07/11/2018 Wed, 11 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I think you made an error in a recent column. You said anyone can file for Social Security benefits online. But when I tried to file for widow's benefits online, I learned that I could not do that. Were you wrong?</p> <p>A: Yes, I was. I checked, and sure enough, a widow must file a claim in person either by phone or at her local Social Security office. I'm not sure if that has always been the case, or if it was a recent change. I'm guessing the latter because the Social Security Administration just got its hands slapped by the agency's own Inspector General. He conducted an audit and discovered that SSA was not doing a good enough job of explaining the options a widow has when she signs up for Social Security benefits. And therein lies a story.<p>Updated: Wed Jul 11, 2018</p> bf5b83740dfd6097c001293e429ea34f A Mixed Bag for 07/04/2018 Wed, 04 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Usually, I like to focus my column around one topic. But today I'll just open up my email inbox and pull out a hodgepodge of questions.</p> <p>Q: I am 64 years old. I plan to start my Social Security at age 66. My husband is 62 and has been getting Social Security disability benefits for several years. His benefit rate is higher than mine will be by $210. If he dies, will I get widow's benefits or will I not qualify because he isn't getting real Social Security?<p>Updated: Wed Jul 04, 2018</p> 79b9e9d37d93977d9868e28089e72035 One Crazy Email Misleads Many for 06/27/2018 Wed, 27 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>We all know that the internet can be a force for good &#8212; spreading knowledge and education to people around the world. But sadly, it also can be an instrument of insanity &#8212; a tool that can be corrupted by con artists to spread lies and half-truths to an easy-to-fool public.</p> <p>I am reminded of this almost daily when people send me emails with links to misleading diatribes about Social Security. There have been many over the years. They are passed around from one naive and uninformed email recipient to the next. <p>Updated: Wed Jun 27, 2018</p> e7eb2ad019afa551e18f0fc67e51e795 Men Ask About Widow's Benefits for 06/20/2018 Wed, 20 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I get lots of questions about widow's benefits. And surprisingly, most of them come from men concerned about the benefits their wives will get after they die. Here are some examples.</p> <p>Q: I waited until I was 70 to start my Social Security. Those benefits just kicked in last month. I did that for two reasons: to maximize my retirement benefits and to make sure my 66-year-old wife gets the highest possible benefits after I am gone. So imagine my shock when I discovered that my wife's spousal rate is just 50 percent of my age 66 rate! Does this mean her future widow's benefits will also be based on my age 66 benefit amount?<p>Updated: Wed Jun 20, 2018</p> 75d01a7dc8b8a4afe16b7ded0fa2571f The Basics of Applying for Social Security Benefits for 06/13/2018 Wed, 13 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>I've saved up a bunch of questions that have to do with applying for various kinds of Social Security benefits. Frankly, I think of most of them as rather elementary. But then I remind myself that I've dealt with Social Security issues almost every day of my life for the past 45 years. And most of my readers deal with the program, at least in a major way, only once in their life &#8212; at the time they file for benefits. So I hope those of you pushing Social Security age get something out of this. </p> <p>Q: I want to retire when I am 66 in September. When should I apply for benefits?<p>Updated: Wed Jun 13, 2018</p> e7a6e17cea34fc6c90d07eb36e02266d Top Five Social Security Myths for 06/06/2018 Wed, 06 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>It's time for me to dust off and update a column I write every five years or so about Social Security myths. I could write a book called "The Top 100 Social Security Myths." But I'm having too much fun taking bike rides with my wife and playing Scrabble with her on the back porch to spend time doing that. So instead, I'll just take an hour or so out of my day to write this column that exposes the five most common program and policy Social Security myths. At some future date, I'll put the kibosh on all the silly political myths about Social Security that are floating around on the internet. </p> <p>Myth Number 1: There are secret or hidden rules to Social Security.</p> <p>Almost every day I get emails from readers who tell me about suspicious mailings they get, usually from financial planning outfits inviting them to a seminar with come-ons like this: "Learn the hidden truths about Social Security" or "The Social Security secrets the government won't tell you!"<p>Updated: Wed Jun 06, 2018</p> 01324faf390c1b407407d1f5fe59308d More Questions About the Timing of Social Security Checks for 05/30/2018 Wed, 30 May 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I think you covered this issue in a past column. But I'm still confused. I will turn 66 on Aug. 28, 2018. I want to start my Social Security then. And because I know that Social Security checks come one month behind, I understand that the first check I will be due will come in September. So when I sign up for Social Security, do I tell them I want my benefits to begin in August or September?</p> <p>A: You tell them you want your benefits to begin in August. You are right that Social Security checks are sent out one month late. In other words, your August payment will be deposited into your bank account in September. <span class="column--highlighted-text">But don't worry about the timing of the delivery of your Social Security check. Just worry about which month you want your Social Security eligibility to begin. </span>And since you want your benefits to start at age 66, and you are 66 in August, then that is the month you tell them you want your benefits to start.<p>Updated: Wed May 30, 2018</p> 1bd284429418e689239cc450854b1847 Trying to Help Dad Led to Complications for 05/23/2018 Wed, 23 May 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Q: My dad is 90 years old and I help him with medical appointments and managing important business affairs. We went to our local Social Security office to change dad's address. While there, I asked to be added to dad's account so that I can make inquiries on his behalf. The clerk signed me up to be his "representative payee." Then a few weeks later, I got a letter explaining that I now was the only person responsible for dad's Social Security account &#8212; a designation that included reporting requirements to the government. That is NOT what I wanted. So we went back asking to revoke the representative payee status. This time, a different clerk told us we could not do that without a doctor's note to say that dad can manage his own affairs. I got the doctor's note, and we went back to social security office. Yet another clerk then made dad his own representative payee. So now, I've just transferred the burden of reporting to my father! Is there any way to explain things better to the folks at the Social Security office to get things back to dad's original status? We just want him to be a regular person getting his Social Security in the regular way without all this payee stuff. Can you help me sort this out? </p> <p>A: First of all, let me reassure you that based on what you told me, everything seems to be back to normal. Your dad is just "a regular person getting his Social Security checks in the regular way." But now let me review what happened in your case to explain how Social Security handles these cases. </p> <p>I must start out by making this important point: <span class="column--highlighted-text">The Social Security Administration is very strict about privacy laws. </span>Back when I was first hired by SSA in 1973 and sent to a training class, we spent the entire first day reviewing the privacy laws of Social Security records. Those laws require that NO information from your Social Security record can be disclosed to anyone else. Not even to a spouse, a grown child or a close relative. Because of those privacy laws, there is simply no way you could simply be "added to dad's account." <p>Updated: Thu May 24, 2018</p> 7d4f160d707a61fc066e0f53d26aea18 Questions About Delayed Retirement Credits for 05/16/2018 Wed, 16 May 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>All of today's questions involve the payment of what are known as "delayed retirement credits." This is an incentive built into the law that augments the monthly Social Security checks of anyone who delays claiming Social Security benefits beyond their normal full retirement age. The maximum extra credit is 32 percent for people who wait until age 70 before signing up for Social Security.</p> <p>Q: I just turned 68 yesterday. I was planning to wait until I turned 70 to apply for my Social Security benefits. I wanted to get the 32 percent bonus for doing that. But I recently got bad news. I have cancer and my prognosis for a long life isn't good. So now I want to start my Social Security checks right away. Will I be forfeiting my chance to get the bonus because I'm not going to wait until age 70 to file? <p>Updated: Wed May 16, 2018</p> 81e4e0c36ececcb9cee2994a2d4eceb5 Riding the Social Security Gravy Train for 05/09/2018 Wed, 09 May 2018 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Before I get to today's question, I must give some background information on the topic at hand &#8212; and that is the so-called maximizing strategy that many people mistakenly call "file and suspend." What they usually mean is the strategy called "file and restrict." And it's not just a matter of semantics. I will explain.</p> <p>A Social Security law passed in the 1990s that allowed working seniors to claim full benefits at age 66 (the prior age was 72) included some totally unintended provisions that let seniors play around with, or maximize their benefits. One of those provisions came to be called "file and suspend." This strategy was usually employed by a husband who wanted to wait until age 70 to claim benefits and get a 32 percent delayed retirement credit added to his Social Security check. But he could file for benefits at 66 and immediately suspend his own benefits, while allowing his wife to take spousal benefits on his record when she came of age. This strategy was actually eliminated a couple years ago. But the term "file and suspend" lives on &#8212; mostly on the internet.</p> <p>People still ask me if they can "file and suspend." Again, they can't. But what they can do is employ a somewhat related strategy called "file and restrict." That tactic allows one member of a married couple to claim dependent husband's or wife's benefits on the other spouse's record at age 66 while letting his or her own retirement benefits grow &#8212; usually until age 70. File and restrict is also pegged for elimination. But it's still good for another couple years. Anyone turning 66 before January 2, 2020 can employ that strategy.<p>Updated: Wed May 09, 2018</p>