Senior Living


Health & Spirit

Social Security and You: The Social Security Earnings Penalty -- a Bad Law

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

Social Security and You: Happy Anniversary

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

Social Security and You: The Social Security Benefit You've Never Heard Of

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

Social Security and You: SSA Representatives Challenge Me

Frequently, I hear from readers who take one of my columns into their local Social Security office to help make their case during benefit inquiries. More often than not, the Social Security representative they are talking to is skeptical, sometimes even hostile, about my involvement in the situation. I can sort of understand that. They usually ...Read more

Social Security and You: The Official Social Security Maximizing Column

OK, it's official. I'm going to call this column, "How to maximize your Social Security benefits" and spend the rest of my life answering questions about that issue. I'd guess that 80% of the emailed questions I've been getting lately come from readers who are confused about the strategy called "file and restrict." In a nutshell, that procedure ...Read more

Social Security and You: I've Been Working on the Railroad

Q: My husband and I live in Utah. We went to file for our Social Security benefits last week. And we were shocked to learn that his claim must be processed by some railroad board. Why? The work he did for the railroad was more than 30 years ago!

A: I can explain. But frankly, I can't quite understand it. Recently, I wrote a column in which I ...Read more

Social Security and You: Gloom, But No Doom, for Social Security

In the spring each year, flowers and trees bloom. And so do gloom and doom stories about the future of Social Security. And that's because in April of each year, the Social Security board of trustees is required to issue a report on the status of the Social Security trust funds. (They also issue a status report on Medicare. But this is a column ...Read more

Social Security and You: You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

I've learned over the years that lots of people get hung up on the lexicon of Social Security. I will use a Social Security-related word or phrase in a column without giving it too much thought. And the next thing I know, there are emails in my inbox taking me to task for supposedly getting or saying something wrong. Here are a few examples.

Q:...Read more

Social Security and You: The 'Burial Benefit' That Won't Bury You

About a month ago, I wrote a column explaining what family members need to do when a loved one who was getting Social Security benefits dies. I primarily discussed what might need to be done about returning the last Social Security check (depending on the timing of the death). I also used that column to help a surviving spouse know what possible...Read more

Social Security and You: Money Doesn't Always Buy Happiness

Well, I just spent another day answering emails from relatively well-to-do readers who want to know how to squeeze every last nickel out of their Social Security benefits. As someone who never really fixated on the accumulation of wealth, I've always wondered if all of this money they were trying to bleed out of the system was going to buy them ...Read more

Social Security and You: 12 Questions and 12 Answers

I usually devote an entire column to just one subject so that I can thoroughly cover all the nuances. But today I'm going to go for a record. I will see if I can answer a dozen questions in the limited space I have. Obviously, the answers will be short and to the point.

Q: If I wait until 70 to file for Social Security, will my wife's eventual ...Read more

Social Security and You: Colleagues Praise Me and Berate Me

There are about 60,000 Social Security Administration employees around the country. More than a few of them read my column. And I've learned over the years that they have differing opinions of the job I do. Today, I will share a couple of recent emails, voicing opposite reactions to my column.

Q: I am a field rep for SSA. I want to tell you ...Read more

Social Security and You: Absolutely Not True

I was answering emails from my readers today. And after a while, it dawned on me that three or four of them in a row began with some version of "My neighbor told me this" or "Some friends told me that." Each email went on to describe an unsubstantiated rumor about Social Security. I began each answer with the same phrase: "That is absolutely not...Read more


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