Retirement 2.0blog

Updated book is an essential guide to Social Security

Veteran Social Security Administration employee shares how retirement, disability and survivor programs work

Jul 4, 2014 @ 1:17 pm

By Mary Beth Franklin

How do you like to do your research — with an encyclopedia or Cliff's Notes?

If you prefer to have all the facts at your fingertips, you would be wise to pick up the 2014 edition of Social Security: The Inside Story by Andy Landis.

Mr. Landis is a veteran employee of the Social Security Administration and has been publishing this bible of Social Security rules and benefits for more than 20 years. I bow to his expertise.

But if you like a quick and to-the-point resource, the downloadable PDF of my guidebook Maximizing Your Clients' Social Security Retirement Benefits should be your first choice. Even Mr. Landis admits it packs a powerful punch in 25 pages.

“Your PDF on filing strategies completely blows my mind — and teaches me a few new tricks,” Mr. Landis wrote to me in an email. “Your ability to put so many complex filing strategies in so brief a document — and so clearly — amazes me,” he added.

Although we have never met in person, you might say that Mr. Landis and I are a mutual admiration society.

While my publication focuses on Social Security claiming strategies for married couples, singles, divorced spouses and survivors, Mr. Landis' books goes in depth on how the retirement, disability and survivor programs work and how to file a claim on line, on the phone or in person. He also explains how to appeal a disability claim that has been denied.

In the 2014 edition, Mr. Landis details the benefits now available to same-sex married couples and explains how high-income individuals are affected by both new Medicare taxes and higher premiums for Medicare coverage. A new “critical ages” chart outlines Social Security and Medicare opportunities at every stage of life.

His expanded chapter “Maximize Your Social Security” offers clear examples of how to use creative claiming strategies such as file and suspend and filing a restricted claim for spousal benefits to optimize your Social Security benefits, including how to use the file and suspend strategy as a contingency fund.

“One of the most remarkable features of the file and suspend strategy is its two-fold flexibility on restarting your payments,” Mr. Landis wrote. “First, you can unsuspend (start payments) any month up to age 70, any time you need them,” he explained. “Second, when you unsuspend, you can specify any start date back to the date of suspension.” He then offers several examples of how this strategy can work under various scenarios.

Mr. Landis also explains how to estimate a client's Social Security benefit using their earnings history and benefit calculation formula and how to project a breakeven point when deciding between claiming reduced benefits early or holding out for maximum benefits later.

In all, Social Security: The Inside Story is a comprehensive look at this important benefit that every financial adviser should understand. But don't forget my version that answers the top 25 questions about Social Security claiming strategies is just a click away.

And if you're looking for an interactive opportunity to discuss your Social Security questions, put August 5, 2014 on your calendar. That's the date of the next InvestmentNews Social Security boot camp webinar. Watch your email for registration information.

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