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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review: Social Security for Dummies (2012)
Before I start, some disclosure. I'm a planner by profession and I answer Social Security questions everyday. I've got all the publications and lots more by way of research resources. I won't say I'm an expert but I do lots of research and spend time everyday on their website.

Except, now I won't have to. The Social Security for Dummies (2012) comes with...
Published on May 23, 2012 by H. J. Spivack

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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good reference but inefficiently presented
Don't get me wrong, I feel that Jonathan Peterson did a good job in explaining how to optimize claiming your Social Security benefits with all the relevant intricacies it entails.

However, Peterson was enslaved to the tacit "For Dummies" editorial format. The latter entails that a book has to be 300 pages long and include a series of "Ten of this" and "Ten of...
Published on June 8, 2012 by Gaetan Lion


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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review: Social Security for Dummies (2012), May 23, 2012
This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
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Before I start, some disclosure. I'm a planner by profession and I answer Social Security questions everyday. I've got all the publications and lots more by way of research resources. I won't say I'm an expert but I do lots of research and spend time everyday on their website.

Except, now I won't have to. The Social Security for Dummies (2012) comes with AARP's stamp of approval for a good reason. There isn't a single facet of the programs, benefits, etc. that is not covered thoroughly and well explained. Misnamed, the '...for Dummies' series is, in my opinion, quite good. This book is a terrific resource for anyone wanting to know more. Its well organized, written and in a voice that will not put people to sleep. Any idea how rare that is? I've been doing this for decades and haven't seen another document this well done.

One particularly good section is the appeal process if you don't agree with the Administration'd decisions. That is NOT very well covered in the official publications.

The only drawback that I can foresee with the book is that it will need updating every year. Cost of living adjustments, changes to taxes, etc. happen nearly every year and this book, relating all of them, will need updating. In short, whether you are a novice or a pro, this book's a real gem. But if you are a pro and depend upon it, you may need to buy it every year.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great starting point for exploring social security issues....., May 27, 2012
By 
Tracy Marks (Arlington, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
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SOCIAL SECURITY FOR DUMMIES provides an excellent overview of almost all facets of social security in its various forms, although it is not likely to cover a lot of specific questions related to an individual's unique circumstances. But that does not detract from its value. It is an ideal starting point for persons wishing comprehensive and moderately detailed information that will help them make informed decisions - and locate additional resources that address their particular concerns.

The chapters in the book address the following: what social security is, a breakdown of its benefits, deciding when to start collecting for retirement, protection, signing up, determining earnings amount, navigating the system, appeals, spousal and family benefits, social security disability (SSDI and SSI), enrolling in Medicare, working during retirement, and shaping your retirement. Additional chapters pertain to: myths about social security, advice for young people, the future of social security, a glossary, and a long list of both online and offline resources.

I chose to read this book (from cover to cover, except for the family-oriented chapters) because I recently turned 60, and have not been very knowledgeable about social security and Medicare. I wanted to know how exactly what retirement benefits I'd receive at various ages, and (post 65) after Medicare deductions. I also needed to decide whether to start collecting social security early, and whether it was worthwhile for me, at this age to apply for SSDI because of chronic illness.

The book answered most of my questions, but raised at least as many new questions. It also stripped away a few illusions I had about Medicare, as it revealed the realities of Medicare premiums, deductibles and co-pays - which for some of us are likely to be as much as we receive from social security. Such a realization is certainly likely to impact one's spending and saving habits.

The author places considerable emphasis upon the pros and cons of delaying collecting social security benefits till full retirement age (clearly urging most people to wait as long as possible). His explanation in regard to how working before full retirement age reduces benefits for workers earning more than about $14,146/year was enlightening, leading me to realize that there is little advantage in receiving social security early if you are earning more than that amount. I gained the most value, however, from many of the links to web sites - particularly a variety of calculators which are helpful in determining the amount of social security one would receive at different ages.

The explanations in regard to the process of applying for social security, disability and Medicare were also informative, as was the somewhat brief material upon Medicare Advantage, which usually has lower premiums than regular Medicare. However, the author's discussion of Medicare was quite sketchy, and not very helpful in regard to determining what choices to make in regard to plan A, B, C and D. But this is a topic which alone deserves a complete book because of all the complexities of the law and the idiosyncrasies of individual cases and concerns.

Although I strongly recommend this book to people just beginning to explore social security issues, it is truly only a starting point, and most people are likely to end up with a list of questions which they will then wish to address with additional reading.

As for myself, self-employed and struggling with chronic illness, I had difficulty understanding how the personal income amount and earning limits are determined. What impact, for example, do book royalties or monthly medical bills have upon one's benefits? The author wrote: " Royalties, sick pay, travel expenses and business expenses all potentially count toward the earnings limit, but the rules are highly technical." Statements such as these shed no illumination whatsoever, but did help me clarify the questions which will require further research.

Despite having more questions as a result of reading this book than I had before I started, I do give it five stars. It covers a wide range of very complex and convoluted subjects in highly readable language and directs readers to resources which will provide more detailed information.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good reference but inefficiently presented, June 8, 2012
This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
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Don't get me wrong, I feel that Jonathan Peterson did a good job in explaining how to optimize claiming your Social Security benefits with all the relevant intricacies it entails.

However, Peterson was enslaved to the tacit "For Dummies" editorial format. The latter entails that a book has to be 300 pages long and include a series of "Ten of this" and "Ten of that" chapters. In this case, those editorial imperatives were a waste. The "Ten of this" thing could have been skipped as the author veered into subjects unrelated to one's understanding of their Social Security benefits such as Social Security advocacy, fiscal and political considerations. If you are interested in fiscal analysis, I recommend CBO studies and the annual report of the Social Security Trust fund. Both of those will give you a ton of info on the subject for free.

Continuing on the "For Dummies" editorial mandate, this subject would have been far better treated by cutting at least a 100 pages. The book appears often verbose and repetitive. You read the same subject over and over such as the structure of spousal benefits, the related penalties when claiming those early, etc...

Besides covering the basics really well, there are a couple of things I found really interesting:

- The first one is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) has put a stop to Lawrence Kotlikoff (an economist and expert on Social Security) sophisticated strategy of taking your benefits early at 62, then repaying them back to the SSA near 70, to in turn claiming them back at 70 at the maximum level. This amounted to an interest free loan of SS benefits from 62 to 70.

- The second one I found really interesting is Appendix C that allows you to choose options (increasing taxes or cutting benefits) and see what impact it would have on reducing the fiscal shortfall in SS. I know I am contradicting myself as I said earlier I did not feel this subject belonged to the book. But, two thought provoking pages on fiscal considerations is one thing; tens of pages on the subject is another. In any case, based on the options provided I found out that by simply increasing the payroll tax from 12.4% to 12.9%, increasing full retirement age by one year (from 67 to 68), and indexing such age to rise in life expectancy we would reduce the SS shortfall by 60%. One detail here, it would have been nice if the author would have disclosed his sources at arriving at such estimates.

In a nutshell, I still do recommend the book. Yet, there must be a better book out there for the mentioned reasons.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Needs serious editing, November 8, 2013
By 
Claudia E. Kidder (Greenwich, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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Concepts, explanations and tips are repeated throughout the book making the book longer than needed. The links are somewhat useful however, those links could be found by googling. Editing for redundant information would reduce this book to a few dozen pages.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for Dummies, January 13, 2013
By 
Doug Jones (BLOOMINGTON, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
I was only interested in the chapter on Medicare, and bought this book for that. I can't speak for the rest of the book, but the chapter on Medicare left me with more questions than I started out with. It is written to a college-graduate reading level and just skims over topics without explaining almost anything. Granted, it's a complex subject, but it doesn't appear to me that any effort was made to simplify the material to where a "dummy" could understand it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great deal of information poorly organized, April 12, 2013
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This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
This is one of the most frustrating books I've tried to wade through in quite a long time. While this is a complex subject the entire point, particuarly for a "Dummies" book, is to unravel those complexities and make the information useful.

This book loses on both of those goals.

It hops, skips, and jumps through it's subject matter in such a way that a CPA would be hard pressed to track. Information for a single issue is scattered over multiple chapters. It is difficult, if not impossible, to figure out how the author intended to organize the information.

Poorly edited.
Surely there is something better out there on this subject.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Information out of date, February 18, 2013
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I read this book to get more information about the options a couple has as they approach retirement. I had read other information on line previously and I had a telephone session with a representative at Social Security Administration. After reading Social Security for Dummies I was confused on some points as the book gave me information that conflicted with the information I had from other sources. Then I made an appointment with a representative of the Social Security Administration to meet with them in person to resolve the questions. It turned out that all the other sources were consistent in their information in the areas that differed from the book so I think the book has some wrong information.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great reference book., June 3, 2012
This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
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I help people with their finances in my day job. This book is a terrific reference book for advising retired or more importantly near-retired clients. There's enough detail here to help anyone move down the track towards retirement decision-making.

I wish it wasn't endorsed / advertised as an AARP publication. I find more and more affluent clients often express dismay in AARP's involvement in the recent national health care debate. I suspect the AARP prominence on the cover may cost sales.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Dummie Book, December 13, 2012
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This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
Bought this book when both my wife and I were getting ready to sign up for social security. Explained benefits well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars social security info, October 14, 2012
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This review is from: Social Security For Dummies (Paperback)
A good basic book about social security for those who know nothing about it. I would recommend it as a good place to start.
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Social Security For Dummies
Social Security For Dummies by Jonathan Peterson (Paperback - April 17, 2012)
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