I just finished reading the best book about Social Security that I have ever read. In just under 100 pages, the author explains everything you’d probably ever need to know about our nation’s bedrock social insurance program. If you are someone pushing retirement age who wants to know when and how to file for benefits, there is a chapter in the book for you. Or, if you are a woman who is wondering what benefits you might be due on a husband’s, or ex-husband’s, or deceased husband’s Social Security record, there is a chapter in the book for you. Or, if you are someone with a physical or mental impairment wondering if you might be eligible for disability benefits, there is a chapter in the book for you. And there is so much more.
And on top of all that, the author appears to be this tall, handsome man who is so nice, so smart and so humble! (OK, this is getting silly. Of course, I’m talking about me and my book, “Social Security: Simple and Smart: 10 Easy-to-Understand Fact Sheets That Will Answer All Your Questions About Social Security.”
But why am I bringing it up? After all, the book has been out for more than a year now, and I’ve mentioned it more than a few times in past columns.
Well, here’s the story. At the beginning of this year, I updated the book for 2022. But I’ve heard from lots of readers that when they ordered the book, usually from an online seller like Amazon, they were still getting the 2021 edition. It took a while to straighten this out, but it now looks like things are fixed. That’s why I ordered a copy — to test the system. And it worked. I got the 2022 edition.
And here’s a message for those of you who have the 2021 edition: It’s almost exactly the same as the 2022 edition. Essentially all I did in the 2022 edition is update some numbers that change every year. For example, when I talk about the earnings penalty that applies to Social Security beneficiaries under their full retirement age who are still working, the 2021 edition says the earnings limit is $18,960 (which it was in 2021) and the 2022 edition says the earnings limit is $19,560 (which it is in 2022). The 2022 edition also includes a better clarification of how retirement benefits are figured.
So anyway, once the book arrived at my doorstep, I sat on my back porch and read it. It’s the first time I read it through from cover to cover in a long time, and, not to be too obnoxious and self-centered about this, I was surprised by how good it is! The book is actually made up of a series of fact sheets I prepared over the years to explain various aspects of the Social Security program to the readers of my column. Here is a rundown of what’s in the book.
It begins with a section that debunks the top 10 myths about Social Security. Interestingly, I start out that section by saying, “I could write a book called ‘The top 100 Social Security myths.'” And guess what? Now I have. It’s still being edited as I write this. And when it’s available, I’ll let you know.
Fact Sheet No. 1 is called “Social Security Basics.” It provides an introduction to the Social Security program.
Fact Sheet No. 2 is called “Myths and Facts about Social Security Financing.” There are just so darn many rumors and myths floating around on the internet about how Social Security works and is financed. This fact sheet tackles all those silly and misleading myths and sets the record straight. It also includes a section that discusses serious and workable proposals for Social Security reform.
Fact Sheet No. 3 is the most popular. It is called “When to take your Social Security benefits.” It clarifies all the rules associated with retirement benefit eligibility and explains the mechanics of applying for benefits. There also is a section that talks about “maximizing” your Social Security benefits.
Fact Sheet No. 4 is called “Working after retirement and the earnings penalty.” This chapter explains the convoluted rules that apply to Social Security recipients who are under their full retirement age but still working part time.
Fact Sheet No. 5 is the second most popular part of the book. It is called “A woman’s guide to Social Security.” It explains benefits a woman might be due on a husband’s or ex-husband’s Social Security record, and it explains benefits available to widows and divorced widows. (By the way, the same rules apply to husbands and widowers.)
Fact Sheet No. 6, called “Benefits for children,” explains benefits available for the children of retirees or for the children of people getting disability benefits. Survivor benefits for the children of a deceased parent are also discussed.
Fact Sheet No. 7 is called “Disability benefits from Social Security.” It clarifies everything you need to know about the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs. It also includes a section with tips for getting your disability claim approved.
Fact Sheet No. 8 is called “Pension offsets and Social Security.” If you get a pension from a job that was not covered by Social Security, you must read this section so you will understand the effect that pension will have on any Social Security benefits you might be due on your own record or a spouse’s record.
Fact Sheet No. 9, called “When Social Security says you owe them money,” was written for anyone who has received an overpayment letter from the Social Security Administration.
Fact Sheet No. 10 is called “Working after your Social Security checks start: will your additional income increase your Social Security check?” This fact sheet answers that question.
And finally, there is a little bonus section at the end of the book called “What to do when someone getting a Social Security check dies.”
And as long as I’m shamelessly promoting my book, let me mention one other book I’ve written — even though it has nothing to do with Social Security. My readers may be surprised to learn that I’m not just a boring old former government employee who writes columns and books about Social Security. I’m also a grandpa who writes stories for his grandchildren. And I just turned one of those stories into a published children’s book. It’s a cute little story called “A House Made out of Shells.” Here’s the opening stanza to the book: “Emily lived by the sea in a house made out of shells. And when a breeze blew off the seas, they tinkled like little bells.” If you have a child, or grandchild, or niece or nephew, I think they will really love this little book.
So anyway, as I said, I think my “Social Security: Simple and Smart” will answer any questions you might have about Social Security. And I’m sure “A House Made out of Shells” will bring a smile to the face of any youngsters in your life. You can get either book online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other booksellers.
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