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Old 08-21-2014, 06:03 PM
71 posts, read 64,534 times
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Originally Posted by mathjak107 View Post
There are always things in life that apply to some of us and not to others. There are plenty of frugal living retirement sites .

The answer is easy , post the discussions here that pertain to your situation.

Most financial topics are going to based on doing better ,knowing more and utilizing what you have better where you can on the INCOME SIDE .

learning to get by on less is usually not as much a financial discussion as much as it is a frugal living and lifestyle one.

many retirement forums are divided up into lifetyle sections and financial sections. where to retire on less or how to live on less is in the lifestyle section

how to retire on more , get more income ,save more taxes would be in the financial section.
You make some good points.
But this thread is about social security and my comment has to do with retiring early on social security with less money vs. retiring later with more money, and the idea that most articles all over the net seem to focus on the latter (retiring on ss later) vs the former (retiring on ss earlier). Just a simple observation and my views on it.
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Old 02-27-2015, 03:56 AM
71 posts, read 64,534 times
Reputation: 80
Originally Posted by lenora View Post
From the horse's mouth: Retirement Planner: When You Work And Reach Full Retirement Age

Two more helpful links: How to Boost Your Social Security Check by 76% - Bloomberg (has a link to a free calculator, I haven't looked at it)

The Taxation Of Social Security Benefits As A Marginal Tax Rate Increase? | Kitces.com (for those who obsess over taxes).
It's not your fault Lenora, but from what I now understand Social Security's own site has wrong info on it.
On the first page you linked to above, it says:

"You begin receiving your Social Security benefits at age 62 in January 2014. At age 62, you are entitled to $800 a month in benefits. ($9,600 for the year)
You work and earn $23,480 ($8,000 over the $15,480 limit) in 2014. Your Social Security benefits would be reduced by $4,000 ($1 for every $2 you earned over the limit), but you would still receive $5,600 of your $9,600 in benefits for 2014. ($9,600 - $4,000 = $5,600)"

According to this document, (SSA Publication No. 05-10069 "How Work Affects Your Benefits", a 2015 publication you'll find here: http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10069.pdf ), in the above scenario the person would receive ZERO for the months he worked and made more than $1290 in any one month ($15,480 divided by 12 months)(that was 2014 figures, now it's $15,720/year divided by 12 mo. = $1310/month.)

As to which of these contradictory statements from SSA is right and which is wrong, well that's the problem we have. And chances are if you ask SSA, someone there will give you an equally wrong answer - there's at least a 50% chance.

I called them the other day, was on hold for 2 hours and finally got through. Started asking the woman about 1st year benefits as in the above scenario and she said "You need to make an appointment!"
I said okay, and then found out the next appointment was one month away, and that is just a PHONE CALL appointment .

ARGGGHHH! I hate them, hate their web site, hate their constant use of acronyms, and most of all, I hate their contradictory info!
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Old 03-21-2017, 05:57 PM
71 posts, read 64,534 times
Reputation: 80
Unhappy SSA is inefficient and workers often don't know the law re SS

I wanted to comment on this thread because I believe I have worthwhile info to post re the knowledge of social security phone workers and even social security phone supervisors, and a mine field or two that one should be aware of.

I filed early (at 63) and took the money and ran... to a foreign country where it is a little cheaper to live.

I am very glad I did, so if you feel like I do and are wondering if you should believe all those who say "you should work til FRT (full retirement age) or beyond to get "more money", I say no it's not worth it If you can live on what you get with early benefits!

Take your money early because who knows when the Rumps of the world will destroy Social Security or change the laws and ********* out of your money? Also because retiring and enjoying your time (of which you don't know how much you have left) is better than working at age 62 and beyond, for many of us. If you LOVE your job, fine, keep at it, then...

Okay. Now to what I have learned about the Social Security Admin. (SSA):

The SSA is run is very inefficiently indeed. And many of of the workers don't know what they're talking about and have poor reading comprehension. Sorry, but this is my experience, and yours may differ but I only know what I've experienced.

Here's my story and the problems I've had that prove (at least in my own experience) the above statement:

So I took the advice in a couple of these threads and paid Social Security Solutions help me see what the situation was and more than anything they helped me realize I could retire later in the year and that my income that first year, even if I'd made $100k by November when I applied, would not be counted against me during that first year. It's called "Special Rule For the First Year You Retire" (see more below)
So I was very careful to follow their advice and I knew exactly how much I could make after I filed that first year without it causing a problem.

The problem was, the SSA do not know about this rule. (At least 3 of the 4 people I spoke with did not, including a supervisor.)

So after I started collecting my benefits in Nov and moved to my new home in another country, the 2nd month I was there, the SSA cut off my benefits saying I was not eligible for SS benefits after all, and I would have to pay back what they'd already paid me. Imagine my shock and surprise, after I'd paid the experts at SS Solutions and followed their advice to the letter re how the First Year Rule works, and I'd also read the SSA's own pdf on it and "knew" I was within my rights to collect SS benefits.

So I immediately started trying to get this problem resolved.

I called social security from my new residence in a foreign country and it was impossible to get ahold of them. That was my first indication that I was in for problems in resolving this. Half the time I'd get a message like "We cannot take your call, please call back at another time." WHAT?!

Then the next day I'd be on hold forever... then get through and then get cut off...I was honestly concerned I'd never be able to get through to them by phone. I started trying to contact them in other ways.

Can I write them? No, apparently not.
Can I call another number? Hmmm. I see a listing for a number to call if I am a foreign resident. Okay...
I called that number. OUT OF ORDER! WTF?!

Well I finally got through after 2-3 days of trying all day long. Ridiculous.

The SS worker I reached told me, after looking up my case, that I made too much money the year I applied for benefits.

No. I did not, I told her. I applied under the first year rule.
"No, YOU don't understand! She told me snottily. I said, "here let me read your own document to you", and I read the document from SSA re the First Year Rule to her which is given in very basic 6th grade English that any high school graduate should be able to easily comprehend.

She said "No, you don't understand" after I read it to her." She repeated to me: "You made too much money the year you applied and so you were not eligible so we had to cut you off."

"Did you not understand what I just read you?" I asked. "Yes but it doesn't matter. You are not eligible for benefits because you made too much money that year."

I hung up in frustration. It was hard enough just getting through to someone, but it was too much to now be confronted with a moron who doesn't understand grade school level English from their own document!

The next day I looked over every document I had again, checked my income, checked the Rules, checked what Social Security Solutions had told me... and I was absolutely certain I was right and the SSA were wrong.

I called back.
Of course more rejected calls, more menu hell, more waiting on hold...
Then I got through.

Another moron told me I made too much money. I again read their own document to them explaining why it wasn't relevant how much I made because of the Special 1st Year Rule.

They once again assured me I didn't know the rules.
This time I asked for a supervisor.

Long story short, the supervisor told me I was wrong, too. I read the document to them:

"people who retire in mid-year already have earned more than the annual earnings limit. Thatís why there is a special rule that applies to earnings for one year, usually the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you can get a full Social Security check for any whole month youíre retired, regardless of your yearly earnings."
(SSA Publication No. 05-10069 - p. 6 of How Work Affects Your Benefits under the paragraph "Special Rule For the First Year You Retire") [I do not know if this is now the latest publication. It was at that time.]
It goes on to give an exact scenario which was almost exactly like my own!

The supervisor says I am wrong and my benefits were cut off correctly and I won't be eligible until several months later after I've paid back what I was mistakenly paid already by the SSA.

I hung up in frustration, feeling like I was in a Franz Kafka version of the Twilight Zone. How is it possible the Supervisor can't even understand the First Year Rule and how it means it didn't matter how much I made that year, it only mattered how much I made after applying, which I made sure was within the limits stated by the SSA.

Okay so the next day I said to my wife, "I KNOW they're wrong! I've got to find someone at the SSA who understands the First Year Rule!"

I called again. I finally got a supervisor who understood the rule and she said she would try to fix it for me. She did. I said "Thank God I finally reached someone with some intelligence who understands this rule! THANK YOU!"

This goes to show that if it's not the most basic of facts, the SSA people you talk to on the phone may not have a clue, not even the supervisors! So read the documents and if you know you're right, keep fighting until you convince someone of it!

Now... Jump ahead 12 months... Been collecting my benefits just fine. My 2nd problem begins...

Suddenly I don't get my payment. I wait a couple more days. Still no payment.
I checked with the person who handles my mail in the states. Did I get anything from the SSA? No, he keeps a box of all my mail and he went back through it carefully. Nothing there.

So I call the SSA. Oh boy... After last year I am prepared for a bad time...

As usual, "Please call back another time, we are swamped with calls..."

Okay so I finally get through.
They have cut off my benefits, it turns out because I did not fill out a simple 2 page form called "REPORT TO THE UNITED STATES SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION" which I had not filled out.
WHY had I not filled it out? Good question. As I told them, I surely would have filled it out, had you TOLD me too, but no one did and it's not in your own document about living outside the USA, the 36 page document "Your Payments While You are Outside the United States". You would think it *might* have been mentioned in there, no? In 36 pages they can't mention once this very important document!?

Did the SSA send me a letter to my address in the USA as I'd been told they would at my request? No.
Did the SSA notify me by email which I have requested on my.socialsecurity site? No.
Did the SSA notify me about this on the Message Center at my.socialsecurity site? No.

So tell me, how was I supposed to know about it? Am I supposed to read the entire poorly organized and poorly maintained Social Security web site?

And Furthermore:
Once they have decided to CUT OFF MY INCOME, might it not be in order to send me a letter or email about that? Surely they must have known weeks before that they were going to do so, right? But no, no email, no letter, no message at the web site, nothing!

Okay, so now I know what happened. I ask them what to do about it.

They say to send them the form which I can download off their site.

I say, "Okay do you want me to email it to you or fax it?"
"No, you have to mail it by post office!"
"Wohh! Wait a second!" I say. "If I do that it may not get there for a month or may NEVER get there! I live in a 3rd world country and the mail here is NOT reliable! How about if I email it via secure email or mail it via secure fax?"
"No. We can only accept it by mail for security reasons." [What? No one can open an envelope once it's in the 3rd world mail? system? In reality this may be the LEAST secure method of sending it!]

"What security is there to protect?", I ask. "It's just my name and social security number, of which every doctor and every employer and every credit card company and all kinds of other people have already in unsecure places like filing cabinets that any $8/hour employee has access to at the doctor's office!"

"No, sorry, we have our rules."

"But WAIT. You're not hearing me. This isn't going to work for me at all. There has to be another way!"
"Okay let me ask my supervisor."
"Okay she says you can make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy and hand it to them in person and that will work."

"But the Embassy is 2 hours away from me by bus and getting an appointment can take over a week!

Surely there must be SOME way to send this electronically instead! This is 2017, not 1967! We have many methods of secure electronic communication. May I speak with a supervisor please?"

The supervisor comes on after a suitable wait (of course)...
"No, you'll have to either mail it or hand it to the person at the U.S. Embassy."

At this point I've had it. This is *#@%!! ridiculous. It's 2017 and the SSA has NO means of secure communication by internet or fax??!
I realize they're not going to budge on this stupid "security issue".

"So basically what you're telling me is, to hand it to the U.S. Embassy myself like the Pony Express of the 1800's?"
"If you want to say it that way, yes."
"Well that's basically what it is, hand delivery, except by bus and taxi instead of by pony."

So... it doesn't end there...

I make the appointment with the Embassy, and then they contact me and guess what they tell me:
"You can sign it and make a digital copy and email it to us!"

I guess here in the 3rd world they don't have the same over-the-top "security" they do in the USA.
So I did that, just like the SSA should have let me do in the first place, especially under the circumstances where I was cut off without any warning and where I desperately needed my SS check.

But wait, even at the SSA it apparently does depend on who you talk to.

The Embassy was supposed to acknowledge receipt of my form but they never did. So being 3rd world as it is, I really figured it might have never been received which would further delay me getting my income from the SSA so I was writing them and asking them (no phone service to them here!) and was receiving no response so I was justifiably concerned after several days of no word from them as to if they even received it or if there was any problem with it etc. Turns out they DID get it and DID fix it for me but I didn't know so I pursued one last avenue:

I called the local office in the USA - let this be a tip to you if you have SSA problems! If the 800# is not helping you, try your local office!

I got RIGHT THROUGH at the local office, got a very nice man who understood my issue and was very willing to try to help me. He said he couldn't actually help me but he gave me a fax # of the main office in his area where they might.
And guess what he told me:

So there you go... Once again proving the SSA has many faces, some dull and some bright, some strict bureaucrats and some not. But I'd say overall my impression is the SSA IS NOT RELIABLE and NOT EFFICIENT and NOT KNOWLEDGEABLE.

So the moral of the story in both of the above cases is IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY TRY AGAIN!

If you know you are right or being sensible and they are not right or not sensible, keep calling until you find someone who is sensible, smart and is willing to help you! It was very challenging in my 2 cases to find such a person but both times I eventually succeeded in doing so.

ALSO if you live outside the country: FILL OUT FORM 7162 and send it in. I myself have not had the will yet to wade through the SSA's awful web site for the info on when and how often this stupid form has to be filled out but I will. If you live outside the USA I'd say just download it and fill it out.

Oh, and one last example of the SSA's inefficiency:
When I did a search on their site for Form 7162, I found and downloaded the form VERSION 0950-0049.
However the latest form, according to the Emassy is indeed VERSION 0960-0049.

So the SSA's own site is calling up the wrong - older - form.
Go figure.
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