Kotlikoff: 12 secrets to maximizing your Social Security benefits under the new rules

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


The 2015 Budget dramatically changed Social Security claiming options. ​Every day I get a host of emails from the victims of these changes. Most are like my 64-year-old secretary, who I wrote about last week, who, thanks to Congress and the President, lost her ability at age 66 to do three things: a) get a child benefit for her severely disabled child, b) a get spousal benefit for her non-working husband who has had to stay home and care for their child for years, and c) file for her retirement benefit, immediately suspend it and wait until 70 to collect her highest possible retirement benefit.

What’s her new best strategy? Is it a) to keep working to forgo getting her son and husband benefits for four years and take her own retirement benefit at 70? This strategy entails her continuing to work 80 hours of week at two jobs to keep the family living at its decidedly lower-income living standard. Or is it to b) take her own retirement benefit at 66 and thereby activate benefits for her son and husband? Doing so means her own retirement benefit will be 26 percent smaller for the rest of her life. Option B provides the immediate wherewithal (the money) to consider working one rather than two jobs from age 66, but at the price of a permanently lower long-term living standard.

This is the kind of outcome that the AARP — the huge non-profit that is supposed to protect the elderly — was applauding in emailing its tens of millions of members and telling them to actively congratulate their congressmen and congresswomen for supporting the change in the law. I wrote about this in a recent Forbes column.

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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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