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Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security (The Get What's Yours Series) Hardcover – February 17, 2015
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“Getting smart about Social Security can put tens of thousands of extra dollars in your pocket. With that in mind, start by reading, Get What’s Yours. . . . The book translates—into often-entertaining English—the many convoluted rules that make up the Social Security program. . . . [Does] a great job of helping you make sense of, and get the most from, Social Security. . . . Invaluable.” (Glenn Ruffenach The Wall Street Journal)
“An indispensable and surprisingly entertaining guide for anyone who is retiring or thinking of retiring with all of the Social Security benefits they’ve earned.” (Jane Pauley)
“Choosing when to take Social Security is one of the biggest decisions of your life. By doing it right, you can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to your lifetime income and leave more money for your spouse as well. This great book tells you how . . . and it’s funny, too!” (Jane Bryant Quinn, author of Making the Most of your Money NOW)
“Social Security is the biggest source of retirement income for many Americans . . . that just means that [Get What's Yours]'s tricks and tips will be ever more relevant. . . . Given that there are 2,728 core rules and thousands more supplements to them according to the authors, it pays, literally, to seek out a guide.” (Ron Leiber The New York Times)
“I love this book! Seriously! Who could ever guess that reading about Social Security could be this entertaining? And if you think you know enough about the subject, you would be wise to think again. Smartly written by an all-star, financial expert dream team, the engaging, down-to-earth prose makes Get What’s Yours the definitive guide to maximizing what is, for many, the most important retirement asset by far. From determining the best age to claim (hint: it’s not what you’ve been told) to figuring out the intricacies of spousal benefits to avoiding the ‘gotchas’ that can reduce your checks, this must-read guide is truly that. And don’t be surprised if you actually enjoy it!" (Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life)
“[Goes] a long way in educating the public and financial advisers about this important lifetime benefit. Get What's Yours is a fun read for advisers with a slightly snarky tone that puts the absurdity of the program's more than 2,800 rules into perspective.” (Mary Beth Franklin Investment News)
"The Social Security system has 2,728 core rules. You can't be expected to learn them on your own, and you can't depend on Social Security staff members to guide you through them to make the right decisions. Use a financial planner with expertise in Social Security, or read and reread an excellent book such as Get What's Yours, to make the decisions that will provide you and your family with the most benefits." (Elliot Raphaelson The Chicago Tribune)
“[A] can’t-miss guide to the system. . . . Clear enough for even the most intimidated reader, with a concluding cheat sheet helpfully summing up the book’s suggestions. The authors’ palpable fervor to help readers get back what they’ve paid will energize readers to claim what is rightfully theirs.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Just what we need: a clear explanation of how Social Security works—and how to get the highest benefits—without reading all 2,728 rules of the Social Security system.” (Library Journal)
About the Author
Paul Solman has been Economics Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour since 1985. He is also Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strategy at Yale University, teaches at Gateway Community College in New Haven, and has served on the faculty at the Harvard Business School and his alma mater, Brandeis University.
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This book is necessary for three reasons: Social Security is not intuitive, and sometimes makes no sense at all. Two, Americans act against their best interests, leaving all kinds of money on the table. Three, there is usually a "however" with Social Security rules.
Worse, Social Security is now up to three million requests every week, but Congress keeps cutting back budget, staff, hours and whole offices. Combine that with the complexity factor, and the authors conclude you cannot trust what Social Security advises. Great.
The way we go after Social Security says two things: Americans are poorer than they pretend, and they don't know how much they're giving up. Only about 3% wait until age 70 to claim, where the figures show a dramatic, peak difference (76%) over claims at 62, when the biggest group files - for the least amount offered. As an aside, there is an annual survey that always says the same thing: nearly 50% of Americans couldn't raise an emergency $2500 in 30 days, not from savings or even from friends and family. Nearly half of Americans simply cannot postpone Social Security.
The most important tip is to wait until 70 before taking benefits. The next most important tip is to register at 66, but at the same time suspend benefits until 70. This not only allows your rate to grow 8% a year for four years, it also allows your spouse to claim spousal benefits (half of yours) when s/he reaches 66 and let her/his own benefits continue to grow until age 70. There are a lot of ifs ands and buts, so the book becomes a tremendous resource. The answers are clear and cogent.
As a consultant who works in different environments all the time, I developed a saying that I could play by anybody's rules, as long as I knew what they were. Get What's Yours tells you what they are.
This book is also for people who think they know everything there is to know about Social Security choices. The authors spend a great deal of time debunking lovingly held misconceptions that could cost you a lot of money. They also point out that the standard advice handed out by Social Security workers on the phone and online is usually wrong and there is no liability on their part for being wrong and there's no recourse on your part (short of paying back the benefit) if you get it wrong because of Social Security's own advice.
The authors also point out that we all think we're smarter than we are. So you can drop this tendency into your next insufferably boring lunchtime conversation with your much dumber colleagues -- it's called 'illusory superiority.' Makes you sound smart when you say it, doesn't it?
Illusory superiority is especially acute for all those would-be geniuses who think they'll take Social Security early and invest in the stock market to beat the system. Those are the really dumb folks. This book explains, two or three times, why this is so.
The book is conversational, but the subject matter is dense. Only once did this tendency to try and be accessible cause confusion. This sentence stumped me momentarily: "You've been divorced for 2 or more years, or your ex has filed for their retirement benefit." Well, we would say this in conversation without a problem, but the writer meant to say that my "ex has filed for his retirement benefit." Make no mistake, though. I learned that this is a carefully edited book and a minor problem like noun/pronoun agreement is practically non-existent. The authors are serious people, trying to make a bureaucratic behemoth like the SSA understandable to those of us who would rather not know. Women, especially, will benefit from the information in this book and, if your husband buys it and reads it, you should read it, too. Best to check that the decisions made by one spouse will ultimately benefit both. If that isn't possible, then there's a conversation that needs to take place.
The bottom line is that this book is probably more than necessary. It's essential to getting the Social Security choice -- sometimes choices -- right and at the right time. With budget cuts for staff, we are never going to get the best advice from the phone people employed by Social Security. You need to find out what's best for you. You will also learn where the best calculators are (AARP has one, the authors have one), when not to get married, why it probably won't matter if you get divorced after 10 years as long as you don't remarry too soon, how not to unwittingly cause Social Security to "deem" that you have asked for two benefits at once when you really only intended to tap into one.
Learning the lessons in this book and making notes that can be checked as each important birthday approaches gave me a headache. But, for once, I didn't put it off too long. And we have to figure this stuff out sometime; we have to exercise a little impulse control; and, we're dumber than we look. I'm off to grab some Tylenol. And my notes.
This is reducing your precious years of life to a balance sheet. If hiking is my life's passion, do I forego it from 62 until 70, when the odds are highly likely I won't be able to enjoy it at the same level? And instead, continue using up healthy years of my life in a job, or 2 jobs, I hate?
And like most similar books, it ignores the fact that many (most?) folks in good corporate jobs start getting laid off with astounding regularity as they go through their 50s and early 60s, and have a much harder time finding any work, let alone reading work.