Wednesday, January 9, 2019

One of life’s great mysteries: when do I begin collecting social security?


Recently someone asked if I was “really retired” and when I said I guessed so, she asked me if I had filed for social security yet.  I said “How old do you think I am?”

She said “I thought you could get it if you retire early.”

I told her I was 57 and the earliest you can file for social security is 62.  Still, I find it hard to believe I’m less than 5 years away from applying for it, if I want to. 

It also surprises me what people know (rather, don’t know) about social security.  I visit an “Early Retirement” forum on occasion, filled with so-called ER experts and a couple weeks ago, one guy wrote he had just gotten his first social security check and it was $100 more than the estimate the SSA (Social Security Administration) had given him.

When someone asked how recent the estimate was, he admitted it was from “awhile back”.  He didn’t understand why that made a difference.

Remember those statements the SSA used to mail out showing your benefit amount at age 62, 67 or 70?   (They stopped sending them in 2011, except for the few who didn’t have an online “My SSN” account.)  Here’s what mine shows, as of yesterday:

estimated benefits

I’m sure that leaving the workforce 13 years early has cost me.  But here’s the thing:  these dollar amounts aren’t what I’ll be receiving at those different ages, they’re what I’d be paid if I was 62, 67 or 70 today.

Come October 2023, when I really am 62, that $1,313.00 will be adjusted for inflation & cost of living adjustments.  If I use’s online calculator, manually enter every year’s earnings and request to see that monthly estimate in future dollars, not current, I get this:

future benefits

Still, what if I WAS turning 62, 67 or 70 in 2019?  Or an age in between?  Here’s what I’d be getting if I turned 62-67 this year:

  • 1865.00 a month at age 67 - Full Ret Age $22,380 a year
  • 1740.00 a month at age 66 - 6.7% less    $20,880 a year
  • 1617.00 a month at age 65 - 13.3% less  $19,404 a year
  • 1492.00 a month at age 64 - 20% less     $17,904 a year
  • 1399.00 a month at age 63 - 25% less     $16,788 a year
  • 1313.00 a month at age 62 - 29.6% less  $15,756 a year

Now if you listen to these various financial experts, they always say the same thing:  Try to hold out, the longer you wait past age 62, the bigger your monthly check will be.

At the same time, the SSA states you’re NOT penalized for taking SS early; the formula they use is so you’ll get approximately the same dollar amount over time, for the average 78-80 year lifespan.

I built the below table to see for myself.  It shows the total dollar amount, by year, I’ll have received from the SSA depending on when I decide to begin collecting social security.

If you look at the very last row, age 79, it shows the total amount I’ll have collected over the years.  And the SSA is right—regardless of my age when I began taking social security (using 2019 dollars), the ‘end-amount’ doesn’t vary all that much.

social security earnings

But there IS a reason to wait:  the longer you live past 79 (considered the ‘break-even point’), the bigger (or smaller) those ‘final dollars collected’ totals will vary.

I still intend to take social security early, but I’m thinking… 63.

Do I really see myself living into my 80s?  Given my sedentary lifestyle and love of things like pizza and strawberry cheesecake ice cream, I’ll feel like I tempted Fate & won if I make it to 70!   I’m giving myself a lifespan of... 78.

If I’m still around past that, I’ll head to my local Death Center, have a drink laced with poison and watch a video of how Earth used to be before I’m converted into a plate of Solylent Green wafers.

The End!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Stop that potus before he wrecks the world! (Happy Holidays from ApacheDug’s Teepee)

spectre4Y’know, I began reading comics in the late 1960’s; not yet my own, but my brother Duke’s friend Jeff Tewell & his books (his mom worked at GC Murphy’s and he got free comic books: unsold ones, minus a 1” strip off the top of the front cover).  He had quite the collection.

I can still remember the first time I saw this cover of Spectre at his house and how it made my heart beat real fast, just like my ticker does now every time I turn on the tv, it seems.

Watching an unhinged Donald Trumb these past two years (let alone these last 2 weeks), his need for attention, the chaos he creates daily with his ignorance and corruption of power—it reminds me of this Spectre story, a comic I haven’t seen or read in close to half a century.  

You can’t help but wonder if things in the White House are going to come to an end before we do;  Wall Street certainly hasn’t been optimistic, my retirement portfolio has taken a giant beating these past couple months and my slated annual withdrawal isn’t happening in January, that’s for sure.  But I know I’m still more fortunate (luckier, more like it) than most out there who aren’t middle-aged white men like me. 

Back in early November, I took a lot of comfort in the fact that the Democratic Party would be taking control of the House in 2019, now I’m not so sure.  Trump holding government workers paychecks hostage to get his STUPID BORDER FENCE PAID FOR WITH AMERICAN WORKERS HARD-EARNED DOLLARS may become his modus operandi if the Dems give in.  Today it’s the National Park Service, EPA & NASA; who knows who he’ll go after next?  Nancy Pelosi, hang tough! 

Dad Christmas 1982Christmas 1982, Dad watching the news and looking like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.  I don’t know what he was thinking, but I know how he feels

I’ve often wondered these last couple years what Dad would think of the news today.  Sometimes I’m almost relieved he’s not here to see it. 

And sometimes, I have to admit I wonder what side of Trumb’s lame “steel flats” fence he’d be on.  My youngest sister (a Trump supporter for crying out loud) almost had me convinced he’d support the office of the President regardless who was in it.  No… I can’t see it.  My dad was no liberal, he had his prejudices, but he was Democrat thru n’ thru and always insisted Republicans “had it in for us”.  I don’t think that’s ever been more apparent than today.

(BTW, I showed this photo to my friend Danielle and said “My dad was 45 here, he looks older to me than he should” and she replied “Everybody looked older back then.”)  

Well, I don’t really have anything to say here (I’m sure it’s obvious), I just wanted to put something out here and wish everyone a Merry Christmas & Happy—no HAPPIER New Year.  I for one could do with less kidney stones & Republicans in the year ahead!

And if things get bad enough, I have this shiny “Star Trek Pizza Cutter” my sister Shawn got me for Christmas.  I went on Amazon to read some of its reviews, one wrote “Be real careful with this thing, it’s sharper than a straight razor!”   Hmm… one good swipe under the chin should do it. 

Happy Holidays

Star Trek Pizza Cutter

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A fond farewell to my outside reading room

readingA couple days ago, my sister Shawn emailed me & told me of a friend’s sister’s plight; the young woman’s jalopy had broken down on the interstate, was beyond repair and she was in desperate need of a new (used) car. 

Was I still interested in selling mine?  

Shawn asserted she was NOT trying to sway me one way or the other, she was only asking as I’d mentioned recently that I was thinking about selling my car.  Still, I replied “no, sorry” and she said okay.

Then I put on my Spock ears & decided to think about this logically.

I’ve owned this car for 16 years, ordered it direct from the Honda factory in the fall of 2002.  Even though I was 39 at the time, it was my first car; I’d been living in the city since the 80’s and got around pretty well without one.  But after my dad died a year earlier, I told my mom I was going to get my license & a car so I could visit her regularly, without having to rely on others to bring me down from the city & back.   And that’s just what I did.

(Y’know, I’ll never forget what my driving instructor said to me the day of my first lesson:  “Are you sure you want to do this?  It’s been my experience that older women who learn to drive make the best drivers but older men, just the opposite.  They never get comfortable with it.”   I asserted I’d be fine (and I wasn’t THAT old) and then began pumping the parking brake.  When she asked what I was doing, I said “priming the engine, isn’t this what you have to do before you take it out of park?”)

ANYWAY—I hate to admit it, but that instructor was right; I was nervous everytime I got behind the wheel.   For the first year or so, I forced myself to drive it for simple errands, but I was just too used to walking to these places.  So the car was soon used exclusively for trips back home.   And then these last couple years… even that became increasingly frustrating.  (My vision isn’t what it used to be.)

So I’ve pretty much left it alone in it’s parking space, aside from going downstairs twice a week to run the engine for 30 minutes to remind the poor thing it wasn’t dead.  I always took a book along with me while it idled, and it became my outside reading room.   (Geez I’ve read a lot of good books in that car… I can’t believe I’m sharing this!)

So I emailed my sister again and said yes, I’ll sell it.   She said “Don’t do it unless you know it will make you happy!  And if you change your mind at the last minute, I’ll just tell her the deal’s off.  It will break the girl’s heart, but… it’s your car!”  I said that selling it wasn’t going to make me happy, I have great affection for my green bean.  But I’ve probably driven it 3 times this year, and it deserves a real driver.  

(Plus I’m paying $40-50 a month for parking & insurance!)

I talked briefly with the young woman who’s purchasing it (at a pretty fair price too, in the range of it’s Kelly Blue Book value) and she couldn’t have been nicer or more appreciative.  She assured me it’d be going places—including Atlanta, Georgia where she now lives.  Gulp… I guess I can forget about visitation rights.

Ah my little Civic Coupe.. I think you’re going to love your new owner.  Now I just have to find a new place to read.


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