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
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
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
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
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
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.