October 28, 2020 — Thank you for taking our 2020 Social Security IQ Test. We hope you found it useful. (If you haven’t taken it yet, here is thelink). Please find below a detailed summary of all the questions and answers, along with an explanation of each correct response to this Social Security text. So far 500 people have taken the latest version; over 10,000 people have taken previous versions. We hope even more take it to advance their Social Security education.
Note: most of the links provided in these explanations about Social Security questions go to excellent advice on the SSA.gov website. The correct answer in each case is indicated in bold either by a ? or a check mark.
Conclusions – Underestimation most frequent kind of incorrect Social Security answer
Of the 500 people taking the Social Security IQ test so far the average score is 64% (we set 60% as the passing score). There were 3 questions that 80% or more folks got right: Full Retirement Age (#1), collecting on the benefits of a divorced spouse (#10), and withdrawing your application within 12 months (#11). There were 4 questions which most people could not answer correctly. Unfortunately, these were mostly questions that are important for Social Security recipients to know.
Underestimating your Social Security benefits will cost you money
The Social Security questions that most people missed had to do with:
-How many years are used to calculate your benefit
-How much your benefit will increase if you wait to claim past your Full Retirement Age (FRA) and the difference between claiming at age 62 vs. 70
-And when a spouse can collect their full spousal benefit.
Unfortunately, underestimating how much they could get by delaying their benefits instead of taking them at the first opportunity could cost them and their spouses a lot of money down the road.
Assuming you were born in 1960 or later, what is considered your Full Retirement Age for Social Security benefit purposes? (The rest of the questions in this quiz assume you were born in 1960 or later, unless otherwise specified).
Comment: “Full Retirement Age” is when you are eligible for your full Social Security benefits without penalty. For those born between 1943 and and 1954, it was age 66. For those born in 1955 and later the FRE increased 2 months per year, until for those born in 1960 and later, it became age 67. But you can actually qualify for “more than full” and get a larger benefit at any age up to 70. (See Full Retirement Age Chart). 80% got this correct.
October 28, 2020 — Perhaps you have already voted in the U.S. Presidential election. If so, congratulations on fulfilling an important responsibility of citizenship. But if you haven’t voted yet here are some facts, as best we can determine, to help you understand where the two presidential candidates stand on the future of Social Security, one of the most important issues for current and future retirees. For this article we have relied mainly on an excellent article on NextAvenue.org, “What Biden’s Plans Mean for Social Security“.
The nonpartisan Urban Institute think tank analyzed Biden’s plans for Social Security in that article. They concluded that his plan could “close about a quarter of Social Security’s long-term financial shortfall”, which as currently projected would reduce promised benefits by slightly more than 20% in 2035.
October 25, 2020 – Just how much do you really know about your Social Security benefit? This quick 12 question quiz, will tell you with an instant score. This year’s edition covers the basics you need to know with new, revised, and updated questions to reflect your benefit in 2020. It is a great opportunity to learn what you know, and don’t know, about this important benefit.
Let us know what you think of the Quiz in the Comments section below. Preliminary results show it is not that easy. If you have suggestions, we would love to hear them! We will have a detailed question by question review very soon to better understand each question.
October 22, 2020 — It seems like there are only two kinds of ads in the last week or so – ones from politicians or Medicare plans. We have heard from several Members who they feel buried, and confused, by the latter. The reason for all those ads – we are in a Medicare Open Enrollment period – which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
To try to help we are providing a link to last year’s comprehensive comparison of Medicare plans, original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage, and Medigap insurance. In an in-depth interview with insurance expert Tom Cretella, he explains the differences, advantages and disadvantages, and features of these types of plans. He goes over the alphabet soup array from Plan A to N, so you can better understand your options and make an informed decision. (The links are below)
October 20, 2020 — Jaw-dropping amenities like indoor therapy pools, art galleries, and rooftop decks overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. Lifecare options along with concierges and celebrity chefs. For those who crave the bright lights and constant stimulation of an urban retirement, many new luxury options are coming. Expensive, yes, but what an interesting lifestyle for those with the means to pay for it! After all, if you have it, why not spend some of it to get the most out of your remaining years?
Retirement in a big city is not for everyone, but there is a small segment that really wants it. New York City, which has many older people but not that many senior retirement living choices, is adding a raft of them in the next year. One of the newest and fanciest is the Watermark at Brooklyn Heights. Converted from a luxury hotel built in 1928, it retains many grand features from that earlier era. For example, the former grand ballroom is now a dazzling restaurant. The Watermark community offers a full range of care from independent living to assisted living to nursing care. There are 275 units. Developers have included an amazing 50,000 sq. ft. of amenity spaces that incorporate three restaurants, a pool, and art gallery. A rooftop deck overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge. Watermark told the New York Times that it looked for 2 decades to find an urban spot like this. The reporting was in an article about “New Senior Housing Towers Coming to New York“.
October 18, 2020 — We have had several members who posted about rival delivery services to another unrelated Blog. So we are publishing those comments here and taken them off the other one. That should keep things cleaner.
From Mary 11 – I signed up for the yearly unlimited Walmart Delivery service. I order once or twice per week. I paid $98 but you save alot of money in the long run. I haven’t been to a grocery store since January. We don’t do restaurant delivery because of Covid so we do alot of cooking at home….
October 17, 2020 – The Open Enrollment Period for Medicare started this week and runs through Dec. 7. It is an important event for eligible people not currently enrolled in the plan, or who want to change some component of their current plan.
During Open Enrollment, eligible people can sign up for Medicare. Medicare beneficiaries can compare coverage options like Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and choose health and prescription drug plans for 2021.
October 15, 2020 — Social Security recipients will see a small Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) next year. Based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2019 through the third quarter of 2020, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will receive a 1.3 percent COLA for 2021. The monthly average retirement benefit will be $1,543 in 2021, an increase of $20.
Employee and employer will each continue to pay 7.65% for Social Security and Medicare. Individuals making more than $200,000 in unearned income also pay an additional 0.9% in Medicare taxes. Maximum income for Social Security taxes will increase from $137,700 to $142,800 in 2021. There is no maximum on the Medicare portion.
Maximum earnings exemption increases. People receiving benefits who have not yet reached full retirement age and continue to work will see a modest increase in their earnings cap exemption, from $18,240/yr. to $18,960/yr. One dollar in benefits will be withheld for every $2 in earnings above that level. The exempt limit for those who work in the year they attain full retirement age goes from $48,600/yr to $50,520/yr in 2021 (($1 is withheld for every $3 over that limit). Beginning the month they hit full retirement age nothing is withheld.
October 13, 2020 — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period starts on Oct. 15. That is when you can sign up for Medicare if you didn’t during your original eligibility period, or have not qualified for a special enrollment period (if you are already on Social Security you should have been automatically enrolled in Medicare). Try Medicare Plan Finder from Medicare.gov, it is a great way to compare plans in your area. The Open Enrollment Period means this is an excellent time for just about everybody to take our Medicare IQ Quiz!
It has just 12 questions, most of which are pretty basic, but a few that will test almost anyone. So far over 700 people have taken the quiz with an average score of 71%. The best part is you will get an instant score along with the correct answers.
Oct. 12, 2020 — Many Topretirements Members are still working, wondering if and when they might retire. Enter the pandemic, and many new calculations enter into the mix.
So many corporations and small businesses have been affected in serious ways by the coronavirus. Airlines, restaurants, and hotels have been particularly devastated by people not traveling and going out to eat. States and municipalities, hit by extra expenses and declining revenues, are looking for ways to cut their budgets. Organizations like these are wondering how they are going to survive. One of their most obvious options is to layoff workers or encourage others to take early retirement.
You might be one of those people approached with a retirement package. Or you might have decided that the pandemic has made it too difficult to keep working. For example, if you are having to teach via Zoom and don’t find it rewarding. Or, maybe you found working from home so liberating that you don’t ever want to go back to the office. Worse yet, you might have been laid off and facing an early retirement you weren’t expecting. Whatever your situation, now is a good time to re-evaluate your retirement premises.