Social Security For Dummies

For Dummies (Verlag)
  • 3. Auflage
  • |
  • erschienen am 27. September 2017
  • |
  • 336 Seiten
E-Book | ePUB mit Adobe DRM | Systemvoraussetzungen
978-1-119-37577-7 (ISBN)
Get the benefits you've earned
Social Security For Dummies is the one guide you need to navigate the often-complex world of Social Security retirement benefits. This updated edition offers clear guidance on when to claim benefits, how much you can expect to receive, where to find Social Security calculators, and so much more.
Since its inception in the 1930s, workers across the United States have set aside a portion of their wages to fund the Social Security Administration. For many, Social Security forms the foundation for their retirement funds. Social Security For Dummies provides you with all the information you need to take charge of your retirement, maximize your financial well-being, and successfully navigate the U.S. Social Security Administration. You'll get up-to-date information to:
* Make your way around the Social Security website
* Know your Social Security options--including retirement, survivor, spousal, and disability benefits
* Find resources when you're stumped
* Get answers to common questions
Retirement is meant to be enjoyed, and Social Security For Dummies makes it easier.
3. Auflage
  • Englisch
  • Newark
  • |
  • USA
John Wiley & Sons
  • 1,18 MB
978-1-119-37577-7 (9781119375777)
1119375770 (1119375770)
weitere Ausgaben werden ermittelt
Jonathan Peterson, an award-winning journalist, is a former executive communications director at AARP. During his news career, he covered the White House, state and national political campaigns, and various facets of U.S. domestic and economic policy.
  • Intro
  • Title Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • About This Book
  • Foolish Assumptions
  • Icons Used in This Book
  • Beyond the Book
  • Where to Go from Here
  • Part 1: Getting Started with Social Security
  • Chapter 1: What Social Security Is and Why You Need It
  • Understanding What Social Security Means for You
  • Appraising the Value of Social Security
  • Understanding How You Pay for Social Security
  • Getting the Most Out of Your Social Security Benefits
  • Getting in Touch with the Social Security Administration
  • Chapter 2: A Breakdown of Benefits
  • Bringing Security to Old Age: Retirement Benefits
  • Surviving the Loss of a Breadwinner
  • Paying Your Bills When You Can't Work: Disability Benefits
  • When the Need Is Great: Supplemental Security Income
  • Chapter 3: Deciding When to Start Collecting Retirement Benefits
  • Paying Attention to Your Full Retirement Age
  • Looking at Life Expectancy When You Claim Benefits
  • Considering Your Spouse When You Claim Social Security
  • Recognizing the Potential Payoff of Working Later in Life
  • Putting It All Together: The Right Time to Begin Collecting Benefits
  • Chapter 4: Protecting Your Number and Securing Your Card
  • Getting a Social Security Number
  • Managing Your Social Security Card
  • Protecting Yourself by Protecting Your Number
  • Part 2: Taking the Plunge: Filing for Social Security
  • Chapter 5: Signing Up for Benefits
  • When to Apply for Social Security Benefits
  • Where to Apply for Social Security Benefits
  • How to Apply for Social Security Benefits
  • How You Get Your Money: The Check Is Not in the Mail
  • Chapter 6: Determining How Much You've Earned
  • Your Social Security Statement
  • Social Security Calculators
  • Chapter 7: Navigating the System
  • Being a Smart Consumer of Social Security
  • Getting the Answers and Help You Need
  • Life Happens: Keeping the Social Security Administration in the Loop
  • Setting the (Earnings) Record Straight
  • Halting Your Retirement Benefits
  • Recovering a Lost or Stolen Social Security Check
  • Getting Dinged for an Overpayment
  • Getting Social Security in a Global Economy
  • Registering a Complaint with the Social Security Administration
  • Chapter 8: When You and Social Security Disagree: The Appeals Process
  • Reconsideration: Taking Your First Step
  • Going to an Administrative Law Judge to Solve Your Problem
  • Knowing What to Expect from the Appeals Council
  • Taking Your Claim to Federal Court
  • Part 3: Who Benefits and When
  • Chapter 9: Spousal Benefits: Watching Out for Each Other
  • Who Qualifies and Who Doesn't
  • How Much You Can Expect to Get
  • How to Maximize Your Benefits
  • Chapter 10: Family Benefits: Who Gets What
  • Defining Who's in the Family
  • Identifying the Benefits Family Members Are Eligible For
  • Looking at How Having a "Child in Care" May Affect Your Own Benefits
  • Understanding the Family Maximum
  • Counting on Kids' Benefits When Parents Live Apart
  • Managing Benefits on Behalf of a Child
  • Chapter 11: When You Can't Work: Social Security Disability Benefits
  • The Two Types of Disability Benefits
  • How Social Security Defines Disability
  • How to Make Your Case
  • What to Do If You Get Turned Down
  • What Happens to Your Benefit If You Can Go Back to Work
  • Part 4: Social Security and Your Future
  • Chapter 12: Enrolling in Medicare
  • Understanding the ABCs (and D) of Medicare
  • Qualifying for Medicare
  • Signing Up for Medicare
  • Paying Premiums
  • Getting Hit with Late Fees
  • Buying Extra Insurance: Medigap
  • Getting Financial Help If You Need It
  • Chapter 13: Working in "Retirement"
  • The Pros and Cons of Not Retiring at Retirement Age
  • The Earnings Test: How Your Payments Are Calculated When You Work
  • When You Go Back to Work after Retirement
  • Special Considerations for the Self-Employed
  • Uncle Sam Giveth and Taketh Away: How Benefits Are Taxed
  • Chapter 14: Shaping a Financial Future You Can Live With
  • Envisioning Your Life with Social Security
  • Preparing for Life on Social Security
  • Part 5: The Part of Tens
  • Chapter 15: Ten Myths about Social Security
  • Myth: Social Security Is a Ponzi Scheme
  • Myth: Your Social Security Number Has a Racial Code in It
  • Myth: Members of Congress Don't Pay into the System
  • Myth: Social Security Is Going Broke
  • Myth: The Social Security Trust Funds Are Worthless
  • Myth: You'd Be Better Off Investing in Stocks
  • Myth: Undocumented Immigrants Barrage Social Security with Illegal Claims
  • Myth: When Social Security Started, People Didn't Even Live to 65
  • Myth: Congress Keeps Pushing Benefits Higher Than Intended
  • Myth: Older Americans Are Greedy Geezers Who Don't Need All Their Social Security
  • Chapter 16: Ten Reasons Young People Should Care about Social Security
  • If You're Lucky, You'll Be Old Someday
  • Your Parents Will Be Old Even Sooner
  • You're Paying into the System Now
  • You Benefit When Social Security Keeps People Out of Poverty
  • You May Need Benefits Sooner Than You Think
  • Social Security Ensures That Time Doesn't Eat Away at Your Benefit
  • Social Security Benefits Are One Thing You Can Hang Your Hat On
  • The System Works
  • The Alternatives Are Worse
  • Life Is Risky
  • Chapter 17: Ten Choices Facing the Country about the Future of Social Security
  • Whether to Increase the Earnings Base
  • Whether to Cover More Workers
  • Whether to Raise Taxes
  • Whether to Cut Benefits
  • Whether to Modify the Inflation Formula
  • Whether to Raise the Full Retirement Age
  • How to Treat Women More Fairly
  • Whether to Divert People's Taxes to Private Accounts
  • Whether to Create a Minimum Benefit
  • Whether to Give a Bonus for Longevity
  • Part 6: Appendixes
  • Appendix A: Glossary
  • Appendix B: Resources
  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • AARP
  • Other Sources
  • Appendix C: Strengthening Social Security
  • About the Author
  • Advertisement Page
  • Connect with Dummies
  • End User License Agreement

Chapter 1

What Social Security Is and Why You Need It


Knowing what Social Security means for you

Looking at the value of Social Security

Considering where your contributions go

Getting all you can out of Social Security

Contacting the Social Security Administration

Social Security is the foundation of long-term financial support for almost every American. If you're like most people, you'll depend on Social Security to help you survive in your later years (if not sooner). In fact, its protections are becoming even more important as an answer to growing insecurity in old age.

Look around you. If you're in the workforce, you know that good jobs are hard to come by. If you're an older worker who loses a job, you may also know it can take a long time to get a new one. Have you been able to set aside money for the future? Saving is essential, but many Americans save little, if anything. Maybe you contribute to a 401(k) at work, if your employer offers one, but who knows how much your investments will be worth next week or next month, let alone many years in the future?

Some of the people who read this book will live to be 100. Maybe you're one of them. Many people will make it into their 80s and even their 90s. Those years cost money. In a future of risks and unknowns, Social Security is one thing you can count on. Your benefit is guaranteed by law and protected against inflation. But that doesn't mean it takes care of itself or that you should be a passive participant in Social Security. You have decisions to make, and you can make them better if you have some working knowledge of the benefits you've earned. You may also have actions to perform, such as informing the Social Security Administration (SSA) about things that could affect your benefits.

This chapter provides an overview of Social Security and a broad-brush description of benefits. Here, I explain why Social Security was created and why those reasons are highly relevant to Americans today.

Understanding What Social Security Means for You

So, what is this U.S. institution that - sooner or later - plays a role in virtually all our lives?

You can think of Social Security as a set of protections against things that threaten your ability to survive financially - things like getting older and retiring, or having a serious accident or illness that leaves you unable to work. When such things happen, family members who depend on you may not be able to pay for the basic necessities of life.

That's why Social Security offers a range of benefits. These protections can provide crucial financial security for workers, their immediate family members, and even divorced spouses. For example, Social Security benefits may go to

  • People who retire and their dependents, typically spouses, but potentially children and grandchildren
  • People who are disabled and the immediate family members who depend on them
  • Spouses, children, and even the parents of breadwinners who die

Social Security's guaranteed monthly payments, set by legal formulas, stand out in a world of vanishing pensions, risky financial markets, rising healthcare costs, and increasing longevity. Although the program faces a potential financial shortfall in the future, its most fundamental features enjoy broad public support.

In the following sections, I look at specific groups of people who benefit from Social Security.

Benefits for retirees

More than 43 million retirees and their spouses get retirement benefits every month. These benefits help millions of people stand on their own two feet instead of relying on their kids or charity or scrambling every month to pay the bills. For about one-third of older beneficiaries, Social Security provides at least 90 percent of their income. But even for people who don't rely so heavily on Social Security, it provides a solid floor of income in later life.

Although Social Security benefits are generally modest, they help keep 15 million seniors above the poverty line, including many hardworking, middle-class Americans who otherwise would have little to fall back on.

Social Security isn't intended to be your sole source of income. Instead, it gives you a foundation to build on with personal savings and other income.

If you're already retired (and not rich), you understand the role these payments play in your monthly budget. If you're still in the workforce but thinking about that next phase of life, here are a few things to reflect on:

  • Social Security is reliable. Its payments don't rise and fall with the markets on Wall Street or depend on how your company is faring or how well you selected investments. Social Security income lasts a lifetime.
  • Social Security is accessible. Almost all workers are covered. To put this in perspective, just half of workers are covered by an employer retirement plan, and many of these workers do not even participate.
  • Social Security is protected against inflation, a crucial safeguard. Rising prices can slash the value of fixed income over time, driving down your standard of living in retirement.
  • Social Security is especially important for older women. Women tend to live longer than men do, and they have less income to draw on in old age. Elderly widows are exceptionally vulnerable to poverty.
  • Social Security gives a boost to the least affluent. That's because the benefit is progressive. Poorer individuals get back a larger share of earnings than their higher-paid peers. Social Security benefits replace about 40 percent of the earnings of an average worker.


You may think of Social Security as part of life in the United States, but it wasn't always this way. Social Security was a foreign idea - literally. Americans by and large never expected their national government to rescue them in hard times. This was a country shaped by pioneer culture, a society that expected people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Back on the farm, extended families took care of their own and struggled together. But as more Americans migrated to cities for work, traditional supports of family and close-knit communities began to unravel.

The Great Depression of the 1930s transformed attitudes. Unemployment rocketed to 25 percent. People's life savings vanished in a tsunami of bank failures. More than half of older Americans were poor. In desperation, people turned to Washington for help, and Washington looked overseas for ideas. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisors, including Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, considered an idea known as social insurance, which had gained popularity in Europe. The idea was that governments could adapt insurance principles to protect their populations from economic risks. Unlike private insurance arrangements, which are supposed to protect individuals, social insurance programs are supposed to help all of society.

In 1889, German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck pioneered the idea with a system of old-age insurance that required contributions from workers and employers. By the time of the Great Depression, dozens of nations had launched some sort of social insurance effort. U.S. leaders, eager to ease the economic pain engulfing the nation, took a more serious look at social insurance from Europe. Others viewed social insurance as radical and un-American.

After a lengthy debate, Congress passed the Social Security Act, and President Roosevelt signed it into law on August 14, 1935. The law provided unemployment insurance as well as help for seniors and needy children. Title II of the act, "Federal Old-Age Benefits," created the retirement benefits that many people now see as the essence of Social Security.

"We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life," Roosevelt said at the bill signing, "but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age."

Benefits for children

Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other government program. More than 4 million children qualify for their own benefits, as dependents of workers who have retired, died, or become disabled. About 6 million children live in households where someone gets Social Security.

The program's definition of eligible children may include stepchildren and, in some cases, grandchildren and step-grandchildren. Typically, children who qualify may be covered until age 18 - or 19, if they haven't yet graduated from high school and aren't married.

Benefits for survivors

The death of a family breadwinner hits everyone under the same roof. That's why Social Security provides benefits for dependent survivors. Not to overwhelm you with statistics, but this is a significant program with more than 6 million beneficiaries, including children, widows, and widowers. These dependents qualify for benefits if the deceased worker or retiree met certain basic requirements of Social Security. In Chapter 2, I cover the rules, including technicalities that affect widows and widowers.

Benefits for the disabled and...

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