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:
"This call is from the Department of Social Security. The ...Read more
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.
Q: My sister's husband died on July 24. He was 76 and ...Read more
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 ...Read more
Q: I am doing a school report on plans to privatize Social Security. What can you tell me about this?
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" ...Read more
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...Read more
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:
"Tom: I've been told that as a veteran, I should be getting an extra $120 per month added to my Social Security check. ...Read more
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...Read more
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 ...Read more
ARF! ARF! ARF! That's not a dog barking. It's the acronym for a little-known Social Security rule that may help some people who retired at age 62 and took reduced benefits but then decided to return to work and now wonder if their reduction is permanent. Because of ARF, it isn't. ARF stands for "adjustment to the reduction factor." It's a ...Read more
Q: I am 66 years old. Even though I am now a U.S. citizen, I spent the first 30 years of my adult life living and working in Germany. But I have lived and worked in the U.S. for the past 15 years. I get a generous retirement pension from the German Social Security system. And I was shocked to learn that my U.S. Social Security benefit will be ...Read more
The Social Security earnings penalty. I don't like this law. I've never liked this law. Before I explain why, let me clarify what I am talking about. The rules say that if you are a Social Security beneficiary who is under age 66 and still working, one dollar must be deducted from your Social Security checks for each two dollars you earn over $...Read more
My wife and I recently celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. We were married on June 1, 1974. I was a relatively new employee of the Social Security Administration, having been hired a year earlier. How that came to be makes for an interesting story.
After graduating from college, I floundered around for a year or two looking for work. ...Read more
Q: I will admit I am a bit of a wonky nerd. I like researching arcane bits of historical minutiae. Recently, I got interested in Social Security BIC codes. I was able to figure out most of the benefits associated with each code. But one puzzled me: the "J" BIC, which my limited research said are "special age 72 benefits." I know about the ...Read more