Editor’s Note: In today’s Weekend Edition, originally published in our subscriber-only Bonner & Partners Briefing, Chris Hunter reports on Social Security’s “hidden” millionaires…
And he reveals how you can dramatically increase your Social Security checks… often by doing nothing more than placing a phone call.
One Simple Phone Call Could Mean $1,000s More in Your Retirement
By Chris Hunter, Editor, Bonner & Partners Briefing
According to polling firm Gallup, the No. 1 financial worry for Americans over 30 is running out of money in retirement.
Even if that’s not your chief worry, you should know that you’re probably leaving thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits – money you’ve earned – on the table.
According to Dr. Laurence Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University, you almost certainly are.
His new bestseller, Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security– which he wrote with financial journalist Phil Moeller and PBS NewsHourcorrespondent Paul Solman – spells out dozens of strategies to help you maximize your lifetime benefits.
Often, all you need to do is place a simple phone call to the Social Security Administration.
This doesn’t apply only to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. From Get What’s Yours:
Middle-income and upper-income households actually have the most to gain in total amounts from getting Social Security right. Toting up lifetime benefits, even low-earning couples may be Social Security millionaires.
And except for Bill Gates and the Warren Buffetts of this world – whose percentage of the population was exceedingly modest last we checked – Social Security is a very meaningful income source.
Just how meaningful a source of income are we talking about?
According to Kotlikoff, a 60-year-old couple who stopped working at that age… and who earned the maximum FICA limit starting at the age of 25… will have a Social Security “asset” worth $1.2 million if they start collecting at 62.
(Put another way, you’d need a portfolio of $1.2 million to produce the same level of annual income that you’d get from Social Security.)
That’s about four times the typical nest egg of a household headed by someone between the ages of 65 and 69. From Get What’s Yours:
All you have to do is stay alive and those Social Security payments will keep coming each and every month – payments guaranteed by the United States government and protected against inflation.
That’s because every January, you get, by law, annual benefit raises that equal the prior year’s rate of inflation.
All your other retirement funds – stocks, bonds, real estate, etc. – can lose value. But your Social Security benefits have historically been much more stable.
And by taking advantage of the strategies he’s identified in the Social Security code, Kotlikoff says the couple from the example above can increase the value of their $1.2 million Social Security “asset” by $400,000 – or 33%.
That would leave the couple with a retirement asset worth $1.6 million.
All they have to do to get this boost, says Kotlikoff, is apply for the right benefits at the right time. That’s the tricky part…
Many Social Security representatives aren’t even aware of the strategies Kotlikoff has identified. Besides, they’re forbidden to offer guidance. They can offer only information.
Their rules clearly state, “Do not attempt to explain the rationale for any particular operational guidelines, nor go to any great lengths to justify them.”
*** Don’t sacrifice your retirement
Bill is not a fan of Social Security. As he recently told Bill Bonner Letter subscribers, he believes Social Security is a “glorified Ponzi scheme.”
The way the Social Security system works would be illegal for a private annuity plan. It would be labeled a “Ponzi scheme.” Its promoters would be fined or put in prison.
The money that goes into the system is not locked away in wealth-producing investments so that the cash will be available to finance the retiree’s pension. Instead, the contributions of new participants are used to pay benefits to old ones.
Kotlikoff agrees 100%.
He says Social Security is a “disgrace” in the way it’s been designed and financed. As he told me when I talked to him for the February issue of Bonner & Partners Investor Network:
If you look at the fiscal gap for Social Security – our basic pension system – it’s 23% underfinanced. The Detroit pensions were 20% underfinanced.
Kotlikoff has literally written the book on maxing out your Social Security benefits. So it may surprise you that he’s also one of the nation’s leading critics of Social Security’s funding shortfall.
But like Bill, he is a passionate critic of how Washington’s overspending is leaving the next generation with debt it can’t ever hope to repay. He calls this a “terrible act of immorality.”
But just because the system is flawed doesn’t mean you should leave hundreds of thousands of dollars of benefits on the table.
As Kotlikoff put it when I talked to him:
Collectively, we all have to pay more in taxes and take less in benefits.
That’s up for Congress to fix. But there’s no obligation for your readers to sacrifice their retirements to help somebody who’s not sacrificing his retirement.
*** The book that shouldn’t need to exist
If the system functioned properly, Get What’s Yours wouldn’t need to exist.
But maxing out your Social Security is not something you’re going to be able to do on your own. From Get What’s Yours:
The Social Security system has 2,728 core rules and thousands upon thousands of additional codicils in its Program Manual, which supposedly clarify those rules.
In the case of married couples alone, the formula for each spouse’s benefit comprises 10 complex mathematical functions, one of which is in four dimensions.
It’s a Kafkaesque nightmare. And Kotlikoff says the complexity of the Social Security system – which he describes as “beyond belief” – means people lose out every day on what they’re due.
In fact, it has led retirees to “collectively leave tens of billions of dollars in Social Security benefits on the table.”
Fortunately for you, Kotlikoff and his co-authors’ mission is to makes it as simple as possible for you to maximize your Social Security payments.
• If you’re married there’s a simple way you can pick up an extra $50,000…
• If you’re divorced you could collect $647 a month thanks to your ex-spouse (whether he or she likes it or not)…
• And even if you’re already collecting Social Security, there are still ways to boost your benefits by as much as 32%.
And that’s just for starters…
Get What’s Yours details dozens of simple strategies to maximize the Social Security benefits you’ve earned and deserve.
If you’re already in retirement… or are retiring soon… and want to make sure you’re getting the most out of this hugely important retirement asset, Get What’s Yours is going to be the most valuable book you ever buy.
In fact, it will be the best $9.97 you ever spent.
I strongly encourage you to check it out. Go here to learn more…