Coffee heat rising

Social Security Outcome: Positive!

Well! So I march up to the North Phoenix Social Security office just as they’re opening the doors. The place is mobbed—turns out every holiday creates a backlog the following Monday morning.

Wait about half an hour for my number to be called. Present the mystifying letter to the highly professional youngish woman behind the window.

And lo!

The number in the letter does not represent a gross payment (as in previous correspondence). It’s a net payment! So the $1021.70 “regular monthly payment” represents a $64 increase, not a $236 cut in pay.

That’s if we believe this particular representative, something experience suggests is an iffy proposition. She says my gross benefit has increased to something over $1,300. Why? Because of the $14,400 I’ve earned this year!

Apparently if you keep working and keep paying FICA after you’ve claimed Social Security, they adjust your benefits upward for as long as you continue to earn.

If this is true, it’s good news. It should cover inflation in 2011—Social Security recipients again will not get a cost of living increase, because of course we all know that the costs of groceries and gasoline and utilities haven’t increased over the past year and surely won’t go up next year.

However, I’ll believe it when I see the money in the bank. It strikes me as way too good to be true.

6 thoughts on “Social Security Outcome: Positive!”

  1. Our letter said they were adjusting for the amount earned in 2009. I don’t think they’ve started figuring in 2010 yet. Could that be yours also?

  2. @ E. Murphy: The letter was vague on the subject. It just said “additional earnings which were not included when we figured your benefit before.” It could be anything, I suppose!

    In the years they covered from the time I started working in my 20s to the time I was canned, they omitted several years of earnings. My ex, who keeps every record that crosses the threshold, couldn’t find our tax records for some of those years, but he was able to prove I’d had taxable income for a few of them. Who knows? Maybe they’ve unearthed some money from the 1980s!

    The woman I spoke with said they refigure your benefit every November.

  3. They missed some years of your earnings? What an eye opener. I always accepted the SS records as straight from God. I never thought to double check or would remember which years I worked.

    I guess your ex gets some bonus points here, right?

  4. @ E. Murphy: The gov’t sends you a statement estimating your future SS benefits. It should contain a list of the years for which you get credit, or you can ask. Check. Surprisingly, they can miss some. These folks are only human, after all…they do make the occasional mistake.

  5. @FAM: With the amount of time you spend worrying about and working on SS, pehaps you should consider resaearching it independently or aksing someone to help. All the formulas, rules and proedures are well-documented.
    For example:
    1, If you worked more that 35 years, they only count the best 35.
    2. If you continue working, the future benefit is increased based on the new earnings.
    3. I you exceed the limits, your benefit is cut (as you found out the hard way!). BUT this is compensated for by the increased later benefit. This doesn’t help you pay your utility bills now, but it does improve your future.

  6. @ Mark: I would be thrilled if I could find someone who could help negotiate these waters and would cheerfully pay an adviser. Although the rules are well documented, they’re absurdly complicated and in many instances they simply are so illogical they make no sense. Dealing with SS is like falling down the rabbit hole. But around here, at least, I haven’t been able to find any hired guides…nor do I even know what such a person would be called.

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