Four Legal Ways to Boost your Social Security Check

There’s an article in today’s Personal Finance section of Yahoo Finance called “Secret Ways to Boost Your Social Security,” so naturally, it caught my eye. The author, Mary Beth Franklin of Kiplinger.com, outlines four strategies that do just that. For you faithful Platinum Years readers, the first one will sound very familiar, since it involves paying back your social security to obtain a higher monthly benefit, a topic we covered in a series in February, most notably here, here, and here. Franklin does a good job explaining it, though, so it's a good refresher. There's also an interesting example of someone who took out a second mortgage to repay benefits and is using the increased payment to pay back the second mortgage.

There is also a clarification of the tax consequences of paying back your social security. If any of your social security benefits that you pay back were taxed along the way, you can get a refund, either through a tax deduction or a tax credit, whichever works to your benefit. What could be more fair than that?

The other three "secrets" in this article are all variations on spousal situations. One of these we have covered in the past, where the primary breadwinner keeps working and the lesser earning spouse starts collecting. This works best where the primary breadwinning is the husband, because the main benefit occurs after the death of the primary breadwinner dies, and the surviving spouse's benefit steps up to a level based on his earnings. The reason it works best is that we men are much more likely to die first, and in many cases, the widow lives on for many years. Obviously, this strategy works even better for marriages where the wife is much younger than the husband.

The third is another "spousal tactic," which works even when spousal incomes are about the same. This one is completely new to me, and the Platinum wife and I may use this one ourselves. It seems that once we both reach retirement age, if one spouse wants to continue working, they can still file for spousal benefits on the other's earnings without compromising their own eventual benefit. This one seems to good to be true, but that's what the article says.

Fourth is a little more obscure, but has to do with the children of "Do Over Dads," who have had children in a second marriage or otherwise late in life, that is those who have children under the age of eighteen when they start to collect social security. If that applies to you, I'll let you read that one for yourself.

I continue to be amazed at just how flexible the rules of social security really are. The problem really is not the flexibility of the rules. It's the education of the recipients. Which is, after all, where websites like this one come in. And we have our work cut out for us. Do you know how many of the 32 million U.S. social security recipients availed themselves of the fantastic opportunity to pay back past benefits to increase their future ones? A grand total of 71 people. Of course that was before the financial websites like Yahoo Finance, MarketWatch, Kiplingers, and of course, Platinum Years, told YOU about it. - Bob

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