Maximizing Social Security

Getting the most out of your Social Security? Maybe not. New ways to maximize your SS benefit.social security ponzi scheme 2

Social Security is one of the most complex government run benefit programs that touches every U.S. citizen in one way or another. Often referred to as a Ponzi scheme (and justifiably so), if you expect to win at this game you need to get in early and stay as long as you can.

Hardly anything in OASDI (Old Age Survivors and Disability Income) program is more confusing than spousal and survivor benefits. Two new books and a website can help you get answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.

 

Get the most out of your Social Security

Most advisers today say wait as long as you can to start your benefits. That means waiting until age 70 to begin drawing your check.

You can start as early as age 62 but baby boomers like myself must wait until age 66 before we have reached what Social Security terms our “normal retirement age”.

sleepless nightsThe Wall Street Journal advises, “getting smart about Social Security can put tens of thousands of extra dollars in your pocket”. They recommend two books, one new, one updated, to bring you up to speed on getting what is rightly yours.

The Social Security Handbook has 2,728 rules for determining your benefits.  If that isn’t enough there is POMS (Program Operating Manual System) to explain how to implement the rules.

Or you can get Laurence Kotlikoff’s book “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security” and buzz through 300 pages. In there you will pick up gem’s like this in the section “25 Bad-News Gotchas That Can Reduce Your Benefits Forever.”

“If you get divorced just one day shy of 10 years, neither you nor your spouse will collect a dime in spousal or survivor benefits.” – WSJ

That’s going to leave a mark.

Assuming you even thought about this question, you could find it easily with Google. Here’s the answer.

If you have a surviving divorced spouse, he or she could get the same benefits as your widow or widower provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. – SSA

But in the midst of divorce, and even if you have thought about your (soon to be ex) dying, SS benefits are probably the furthest thing from your mind.

The benefit of books like this is, it prompts you to think about questions and solutions you never considered before.

If you don’t want to read 300 pages you can pick up the 2nd book mentioned in the WSJ by Jim Blankenship, “Social Security Owners Manual”.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices
Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

 

Why not ask the folks at Social Security?

Did you really ask that?

When have you ever called any government office (or private industry) twice, posed the same question twice, and received the same answer?baby boomers collect SS

For many people, SS benefits comprise a large part of their retirement financial plan. Doesn’t it make sense to do it right from the start?

If you are not a reader and want to pass on “Get What’s Yours”, you should consider a comprehensive website by the same author.

Maximize My Social Security is available to consumers for a $40 annual fee. That is a small price to pay when it comes to analyzing and predicting your retirement income possibilities.

Plug in your information and in seconds the software analyzes numerous combinations of retirement scenarios. Here is a summation of what you get with your license.

Maximize My Social Security ask for the right inputs—all the right inputs and then, under its hood, its advanced algorithms consider thousands and often tens of thousands of alternative claiming strategies in suggesting the best strategy—the one that delivers the highest lifetime benefits. In the case of married couples, the program suggests joint claiming strategies since what one spouse does will affect what the other can do and vice versa. For widowed and divorced widowed households, the program suggests the best order in which to take widow(er) and retirement benefits. For divorced workers, the program considers when to take spousal and retirement benefits. And for households with children who qualify for benefits, the program incorporates if and when the parents should collect spousal with child in care as well as mother’s and father’s benefits.

The program goes far beyond any calculations that Social Security itself can make. For privacy and other reasons, Social Security’s calculators are not set up to jointly optimize over the claiming decisions of your or any household.

Impressive.

 

Maximizing your retirement health care dollars

Along with maximizing your Social Security benefts, retirees need to learn how to maximize their retirement health care dollars.

best medicare supplement plan FMost of us just took what our employers offered, grumbled that it wasn’t good enough and cost too much and then went on. When you turn 65 you finally get to pick your own plan. One that meets your needs and budget.

Sadly, too many make poor choices and don’t realize it until it is too late.

I have spent 40 years designing health insurance plans for corporations and individuals and I believe I understand what it’s all about. But a few years ago when I was looking toward turning 65 it was time for me to learn about Medicare, not just for myself, but my clients. Many of them would be turning 65 and going on Medicare and I knew they would turn to me for advice.

The first time I read through the Medicare manual I thought I must have had a brain freeze. Hardly any of it made sense. It took about 3 weeks of reading and re-reading the material plus talking to some very wise brokers in the Medicare market before the light bulb came on.

I am not dumb, but if it took me that long to understand the basics of Medicare, how much more difficult is it for those who haven’t studied health insurance for 40 years?

Georgia Medicare Plans specializes in Medigap and Medicare Part D coverage. We ask each potential client about their medical history, prescription drug history and doctors before ever making a recommendation. If you are turning 65 your decisions are even more crucial because you get only ONE initial enrollment period. After that you can change supplement plans at any time as long as you are in good health.

As a baby boomer going on Medicare in September, 2015 I have a unique perspective over most other agents that contact you. I have no problem telling you which plan and carrier I will pick and why it may or may not be right for you.

With more than 170 different Medigap plans, how do you find the right one?

We can help. Others talk, we listen.

Instant GA Medigap quotes online.

We NEVER sell your information!

 

 

#SocialSecurity  #Medicare #TurningAge65  #GeorgiaMedicarePlans #GAMedigapQuotes

 

 

 

 

Identity Theft Prevention Act

The Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2015 is proposed tax formslegislation whose time has come. Retirees are easy targets and carrying a Medicare card with your Social Security number on it is an open invitation to thieves. Medical identity theft is a so-called “victim-less” crime that often goes unnoticed until thousands of dollars in fraudulent claims have been filed.

 

Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2015

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has introduced legislation aimed at curbing identity theft by offering more consumer protections for your Social Security number.

The Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Prevention Act of 2015, among other things, would:

  • Allow the IRS to prohibit employers from displaying a worker’s full Social Security number on W-2 forms.

  • Phase out “unnecessary storage and display of Social Security numbers by Medicare and private health care providers.” Brown said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been asked for years about removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards but claims it needs congressional approval to do so.

  • Give victims the ability to pursue civil action against people who’ve committed fraud against them. – Cleveland

Georgia Medicare Plans supports this move to protect citizens from identity theft.

 

Protecting your Medicare card

In the past we have suggested carrying a copy of your Medicare card that has blacked out all but the last four numbers of your Medicare claim number which is also (usually) your Social Security number. This was not our original idea. We got it from Money Magazine.

But we have been taken to the woodshed by a MOM (Medical Office Manager) in this revealing post by a fellow blogger.

I was a bit perplexed when not once, but twice in the past few months, I had patients who presented a photocopy of their Medicare Card with their billing number (which is their social security number) blacked out. Each time I gave the “card” back to the patient and said I could not accept a photo copy, I needed the original card with all the information visible. You see, the only way I can get my doctor paid is to bill Medicare for your service and I need that number to bill. – InsureBlog

As Kelley goes on to say …….

because of identity theft and the ability to change insurances during the open enrollment each year (and sometimes more often), the physician has to confirm each time you visit that you do, in fact, have insurance, and that insurance is, in fact, yours. This is done by confirming your Insurance Number and Name with outside entities that assure your doctor that, yes, the insurance is active and you are you.

Thanks, Kelley, for pointing this out and helping us understand these issues from a doctor’s office perspective.

 

Medigap may offer more protection

In the battle against medical identity theft, a Medigap plan may offer you more protection than a Medicare Advantage plan.

As the Cleveland article pointed out, many insurance carriers use your SSN as part of your member ID number. Most retirees will review and often change Advantage plans on an annual basis. Each time you change that is more exposure to potential identity theft.

Contrast that with having a Medicare supplement plan that most will keep for years without making a change. We have clients who have had the same Medigap plan with the same carrier for 5 years or longer.

Contrast that with Advantage plans that are changed every 2 – 3 years.

When was the last time you reviewed your Medigap plan? Most of the people we talk to are paying too much for their plan by an average of $450 per year. We show them even more savings by swapping their expensive plan F for plan G or N.

With more than 170 different Medigap plans in Georgia, how do you find the best plan for you?

Shop and compare GA Medigap quotes

Instant online rates

Your information is NEVER sold.

 

#IdentityTheft #TaxFraud #MedicareCard #SocialSecurity #GAMedigapQuotes

How to Max Out Your Social Security

If you want to max out your Social Security benefit you will need to plan ahead. You can begin receiving Social Security at age 62 but most baby boomers will come out ahead to wait until FRA (full retirement age) at 66. Regardless of when you begin Social Security, most of us will go on Medicare A & B when we turn 65. How much is the spouse benefit?

How much does Medicare cost? Should I stay on my group plan or is it better to begin Medicare at age 65? Can I have Medicare without Social Security?

 

Social Security at age 62 or wait?

If you need to begin Social Security at age 62 for financial reasons, go ahead. It is your money. But if you want to max out your benefits the longer you wait the more you will receive each month. Apply for Medicare

The Catch 22 in your benefit is this. How long will you live?

If you are in relatively good health and your family has a history of living into their 80’s or older there’s a good chance you will have a long life too.

But we never know until we get there.

CNN Money addresses the question, “Should you tap your Social Security benefits early or wait?”.

Many people want to get their hands on their benefits as soon as possible, fearing (incorrectly) that Social Security will go broke. Others enjoy the sense of control they get from investing those funds instead of passively waiting for a higher payment down the road.

In spite of some claims, Social Security will not go broke. Technically, it already is. Excess payroll tax collections have mostly been borrowed by Congress to pay current obligations. The Trust fund is full of IOU’s but that does not mean Social Security will implode.

There are too many of us boomers out there and we are old enough to vote if they try and take Social Security away from us. Yes, I said us. I will turn 65 in September of 2015 and will go on Medicare. My plan is to delay SS until age 66 or possibly later.

 

Social Security planning

If you fail to plan you plan to fail. There is a lot to be said for that old saw.

Back in the old days when we wanted to go on vacation we planned ahead. Many of us ordered at trip planning kit from AAA that contained maps, information on lodging and restaurants and even included brochures of places to see.

That was then.

Now we go on the internet and let Google be our friend. We may map out our trip to get an idea of trip times but rather than bulky maps that never can be folded up neatly we rely on GPS to get us from point A to point B.

We don’t have a retirement GPS and we do need to plan ahead.

Of the items mentioned in the video, long term care planning is often the one that is most overlooked. I have a business associate that handles long term care for me. Let me know if you need an introduction.

 

Turn 65, go on Medicare?

At one time you had no choice. Most people retired at age 65 and some even a few years earlier. If you worked for a “big company” like AT&T or IBM you had a retiree health insurance plan.

But those days are mostly gone.

att retiree health insuranceMany large employers have cancelled their retiree health plan and shuttled their employees off to consultants like Aon or Towers Watson. Instead of a company health insurance plan you are forced onto Medicare. Your former employer may have set up a retiree HRA and made a deposit to help you pay for your Medicare Part B and either a Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap plus Part D.

The advice given by the service reps at Aon or Towers Watson is mostly inadequate. You may have also been told the only way to participate in the HRA was to buy your coverage through the consulting firm.

In many cases that may not have been completely accurate.

We helped several retirees find a plan that fit their needs and budget and still retain access to the HRA funding. In every case the premiums for plans we suggested were lower than those for comparable plans through Aon or Towers.

With more than 170 different Medicare supplement plans in Georgia, how do you find the right one for you? I will be glad to discuss the plans I considered as well as the one I will pick when I go on Medicare.

You can begin your search on our site. View plans side by side to compare benefits and rates. Of course we are always available to answer any questions you may have.

Georgia Medigap plans & Prices
Georgia Medigap plans & Prices

Still have questions?

Social Security can be confusing, even more so than Medicare. You are not the only one with questions.

Here are a few links to help you find your path and max out your Social Security benefits.

How to Max Out Your Social Security Checks

How to Calculate the Spousal Benefit

Social Security Spouse Benefits – The Rules of the Road

If you found this post to be of benefit please share it with your friends. Let us know how we can help.

 

#SocialSecurity #Medicareturning65 #AT&T

Playing Politics with Social Security

Many baby boomers thought Social Security would not be around by the time they had their 65th birthday. We are barely 4 social security ponzi schemeyears into the boomer generation, born from 1946 through 1964, but already the folks in DC are wondering how to deal with 10,000 of us crossing the finish line every day. The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided so often there is little left in reserve to pay our benefits.

  • What is the problem with Social Security?
  • How did this mess occur?
  • What happened to the Trust Fund where reserves were held in a lock box?
  • What steps are being taken to preserve Social Security?
  • How should I plan for retirement?

 

Social Security and an aging population

As Suzanne Fields writes in the Washington Times

At the beginning of the 20th century, a baby born in America was expected to reach the ripe old age of 47. My grandson, delivered on Christmas Eve, can anticipate living to the age of 79. If progress continues, his life expectancy will rise to 88. At the end of the century, the norm may be a cool 100.

Along with The Greatest Generation, Boomer are living longer, healthier lives. Improved lifestyles and the miracle of modern medicine allows us to live longer, more productive lives.

When Social Security was created the average life expectancy was 61. Only 54% of men and 60% of women lived to age 65. Congress only had to fund benefits for less than half the people born in 1935. The rest would pay into the system but never collect.

And to think they threw Charles Ponzi in jail for his scheme which involved using funds from new investors to pay returns to social security ponzi scheme 2the early investors.

Social Security was always designed to be a “pay as you go” system where retiree benefits were funded by payroll taxes on the current labor force.

Despite popular belief, you do not have your own Social Security account. When you reach retirement age your benefits are paid from the payroll tax revenues on current workers. Money you paid in over your working lifetime were used to pay retirees.

The flip side is, if you die before you retire you get nothing. Your estate will receive a $255 death benefit. The rest of the money you paid in is gone.

 

How did we get to this point?

Simple.

The folks in DC found a way to turn a promise of “security” into a vote buying scheme. Promise more benefits with the belief socia security ponzi workers to retireesthat the next generation can fund the promises.

In the distant past, Social Security was a “pay-as-you-go” system, where current tax collections paid for current benefits. The Social Security trust fund idea gave us the illusion that we were advance funding Social Security benefits, in a manner similar to the private pension system. In reality, though, Social Security is still pay-as-you-go, with the difference being that future generations will pay for both the benefits outlay and the repayment of principal and interest on the special government bonds in the trust fund. – CBS News

Congress borrowed from Peter to pay Paul. Current workers are not only funding current retiree benefits but also paying back the loans (in the form of government bonds).

Part of the problem is there are fewer workers for each retiree than there were when Social Security began. People are living longer now and retiring earlier. This is a problem.

 

Fixing the Social Security problem

Congress has created a monster with an insatiable appetite so what can they do to tame the beast?

Social Security is based on age assumptions rooted in the last century, but Social Security remains “the third rail of politics.” A president touches it at his peril. The last president who raised the qualifying age for benefits was Ronald Reagan, our oldest president. President Obama, with a new conservative Congress, will not likely do much more than talk about the problems of Social Security, although its pay formula remains unsustainable. – Washington Times

BOSTON, MA, USA - 30JAN02 -Three people are dreaming: National Security dreamer sleeps soundly; Houneland Security dreamer sleeps soundly; Socieal Security dreamer is wide awake. CARTOON: Clay Bennett / The Christian Science MonitorIn case you missed it, the normal retirement age for full Social Security benefits is no longer age 65 for the Greatest Generation, Boomers and those that follow.

People born in 1937 and earlier were the last generation that could draw full retirement benefits at age 65. If you were born in 1938 your NRA (normal retirement age) was 65 and 2 months. Born in 1939, NRA is 65 and 4 months and so on.

Age 66 is the new NRA for people born from 1943 through 1954. The last of the boomers must wait until age 67 to collect their NRA full benefit.

Every year our elected officials debate ways to keep Social Security solvent. Some of the ideas have already been implemented including raising the NRA and taxing benefits if you have earned income above a certain level.

Other ideas considered but not (yet) implemented include:

  • Chained CPI for future benefit increases
  • Raise FICA taxes
  • Increase the FICA cap on wages
  • Further increases in the NRA
  • “Means testing” for Social Security beneficiaries

We have no way of knowing which (if any) of these considerations will be implemented. What we do know is this. Congress can’t afford to keep kicking the Social Security can down the road and we can’t bury our head in the sand and pretend everything is fine.

 

Planning for retirement

Here are a few suggestions for those who will be retiring soon or are already retired.

  • Reduce pesonal debt
  • Improve your health
  • Match your Medicare plan with your needs and budget
  • Reduce your health care cost

Retirement planners and financial advisers suggest you enter retirement debt free but that isn’t always possible. In addition to a mortgage, many retirees still have student loan debt. Some is their own debt while others may be on the hook for loans as a co-signer. These calculators at Bankrate can be helpful if you have debts that still need to be paid off.

Improving your health has many benefits including lowering your monthly outlay for medication. Walking is something most of us can do and all it costs is a decent pair of walking shoes. I get mine at Kohl’s for less than $100. Best money I have ever spent on my health and I got a quick return.

Last summer I started walking 4 miles a day, usually in the A.M. before it got hot. Within a month I had lost 6 pounds and dropped my BP from 141/92 to a more respectable 126/82. Not bad for a chubby guy going on Medicare later this year.

My mother battled high BP all her life and died of a stroke at 82. I vowed not to follow in her footsteps and now maybe I am improving my odds.

Most people pick a Medicare plan based on the monthly premium. If you are like that you are looking at the wrong end of the equation. Retirees on Social Security should look at the cost of their health care rather than the premium. A low premium Advantage plan could leave you with several thousand dollars in out of pocket costs for health care or prescription drugs. Same can be said for Medicare Part D.

I ran a report for a new client that only takes two medications. He mentioned at $15 plan from Humana as one he had considered. When I ran a report for him a $20 plan offered a better value. Even with the $5 higher monthly premium he would save almost $400 per year in drug costs. It would have been very shortsighted to have looked at the premium alone.

This same client wanted Medigap plan F and was trying to decide between AARP/United at $180 and Blue Cross for $192. I showed him plan G for $132 but he insisted on plan F.

We compromised on plan F for $151 and still saved him money over plans he picked on his own.

He can stretch his Social Security check a little farther now by saving over $65/month on his medications and Medicare supplement.

We might be able to save you even more. It all starts with a free Medigap quote.

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