Kotlikoff: This is not how you fix Social Security

Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff writes a regular column answering questions about your Social Security benefits.

Union activists from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) rallied at the Minneapolis Social Security Field Office on Aug. 27, 2014 to protest the Social Security Administration’s plan to close field offices in Minnesota and across the country. | Courtesy of AFGE/Flickr
Activists rally at a 2014 event protesting the Social Security Administration’s plan to close field offices across the country. | Courtesy of AFGE/Flickr

Many of you have read my recent column in this space about the 2015 budget deal’s changes to Social Security.

Today, I’d like to correct several mistaken views about the law’s fairness and provisions, which have shown up in leading newspapers and websites. I also want to explain why the budget deal may produce a major increase in divorce rates over the next couple of years and how it lets nasty ex-spouses keep their exes from collecting divorcee spousal benefits for up to four years.

The final version of the bill was, it seems, put together over a very short period of time though some such plan was vaguely mentioned in the President’s budget as submitted last winter. But there have been no public hearings and no public debate. From talking with high-level Social Security officials, there’s reason to believe the bill was amended thanks to my article here a week ago, in which I pointed out that the original language would eliminate benefits that people were already collecting. That’s how seat-of-the-pants this process has been, though thank goodness at least for the 11th hour amendments. Those amendments made a terrible bill a bit less terrible as my inbox full of outraged emails from people who feel they have been betrayed can attest.

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Laurence Kotlikoff

Laurence Kotlikoff’s state-of-the-art retirement software is available here, for free, in its “basic” version. His new book, “Get What’s Yours—the Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security Benefits,” (co-authored with Paul Solman and Making Sen$e Medicare columnist Phil Moeller) was published in February by Simon & Schuster.

Find a complete list of Kotlikoff’s columns here.


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