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So, Baby Boomer "Seafood Lovers"...........................

Have you seen this letter yet?

Darden Restaurants, Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its Red Lobster business and certain other related assets and assumed liabilities to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion in cash.   

Red Lobster has decided to rebuild its company image and stand on its own.

Looks like they are aiming for a higher class image and you know what that means - higher prices !!


I'm sure they are going to "catch" some grief over this.

I can't wait for the complaints to start "streaming" in.

Sounds like the typical "bait" and switch tactic to me.

First, you "lure" your customers in with visions of new, high class seafood, then you are "slammed" and before you know it they are giving you the high price "hook."

What's their "angler" here?

They should take a "pole" to see if everyone thinks this is a good idea.



 
 
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If this video wasn't so scary, it would be incredibly funny.

Please, lock up your "guns."

 
 
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Go ahead and Google or Bing the phrase “Top 10 Business Books” and you get nearly 1.8 Trillion returns.

That in itself leads you to realize that this is an extremely important subject on this planet. 

Everybody who is somebody from Forbes and Huffington Post to bloggers like Fernando Biz and Nicola Cairncross have chimed in at one point over the past few years to list for you what they feel are the pivotal reads in the world of success and entrepreneurship.

There is definitely no shortage of websites that have found it important to let the world know that there are at least 10 critical books that you need to read that will influence your way of thinking, make you a better person and give you the drive, direction and determination to become a business, financial and personal success in your lifetime.


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So why in the hell would I think that I have anything else to offer on this subject?

Because, my fellow Survive55 followers if you are already following my blog over the past 15 months and you find what I have to say (at times) interesting and helpful then you have to realize that we are cut from the same metal.

No,  we are not Steve Jobs or Marc Andreessen or Warren Buffet  but we want to be the next Salman Kahn, E.L.James or Julien Smith.

As we begin living in our 50’s we have reached an impasse in our lives that involves great decisions and risk and we are all looking for something that will make us whole and satisfied and complete as we enter our retirement years. 

This involves the basic tenants of financial security, working at a job/profession/skill that we love and making sure that we are truly going to make an impact on our worlds and leave, at least, a small yet important legacy for the future.


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You might ask yourself: " Jay, where does your credibility come from?"

Well, although I may not be on the radar for Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people of the past 100 years I still have done a decent job building a pretty solid resume.

I started in college by building and running my own service business (remember there was no internet back then) which I sold off to join the corporate world.

Through the years, I successfully worked my way through a series of management and sales positions (considered the easiest job you make no money at or the toughest job you make lots of money at) spending the last 15 years in middle management positions with a couple of Fortune 200 companies.


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And all of this time I have read.

I love to read and I love to learn.

I have read most of the books on the Forbes and Time Magazine and Huffington Post "must read” business books lists.

I have books in my office, in my bedroom, in the study and even in my bathroom.

My philosophy is to not waste time so, if all else fails, then read.


That being said, I will share my list with you not so much as the consummate authority on which books are the best ever written on the subject but to offer you some insight from someone just like you.

You wont be a failure if you don’t read these books and you won’t become a success either just by reading them.

That comes from within.

My hope is that you take what you read in these books and build an entire life success path from their teachings.

But, I would be just as satisfied to know that you found at least one lesson or idea from just one of these books and you used it for a few months or even a couple of years to better yourself.

If I can take just one idea and implement it to become more successful then that is money well spent.

Most of these books have changed my way of  thinking, given me strength to take risks I never would have and some have given me specific knowledge on how to improve my "under nourished" life skills that I was not using to their potential previously. 

Each book I read allowed me to grow in different ways.


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This list is in reverse order with the most influential book being listed last.

Here is Jay Lickus'


Top 10 Greatest Business Books of All Time

I hope you enjoy them.


10. Hard Sell (2005) by Jamie Reidy is the best example of how not to learn by example. 

Reidy writes about his experiences as a pharmaceutical sales rep during the time when Viagra exploded on the drug scene. 

His humorous look at big drug corporations and the ways in which their sales reps spent more time trying to work less is a testament to the fact that perception is not always reality. 


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9.  Crush It! (2009) by Gary Vaynerchuck has a raw inspiration for driving you to believe in what you do and making sure that you enjoy yourself as you pursue your true passion in life. 

This was one of the key books in my decision to finally launch my own website and blog. 

Gary writes in a “no excuses” style as he takes you through developing your own “brand,” building support communities, marketing your passion and most importantly making money while you are at it.


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8.  Outliers - The Story of Success (2008) by Malcolm Gladwell

I wish I thought like Malcolm Gladwell. 

This book launched the notion of taking 10,000 hours to get good at something. 

Malcolm looks at success in a completely different (yet factual) way summarizing that it is achieved through a combination of intelligence (both IQ and emotional intelligence), luck (opportunities and timing), cultural context and hard work (the much-reported 10,000 hours).

 I have read all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books (Blink, The Tipping Point, What the Dog Saw, David and Goliath) and recommend them all.


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7. Jack Straight From the Gut (2001) by Jack Welch

If you want to learn about the world of big business why not learn from the best Jack Welch, former CEO of GE for 20 years. 

This is a straight forward exercise on his rise to power, the pitfalls he encountered, the mistakes he made and the business systems that he forged and built. 

No one can ever talk about modern business without referring back to his "Six Sigma" process, the “boundary less” leadership style and his “give and take” decision making style that centered around his intense focus on people.


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6. In Business As In Life – You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate (1996) by Chester L. Karrass

This book is built upon the foundation created by his previous two books “The Negotiating Game” and “Give and Take” as well as the world renowned Karrass Negotiation Seminars. 

The title says it all. 

I read all three books and took both levels of the Karrass Negotiation Seminars. 

There isn’t a business or person decision I make now without utilizing something I have learned from this man. 

Whether it’s striving for a “Win-Win solution, handling deadlocks or negotiating for long-term goals I am constantly using the tools and techniques I gained through his instruction.


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5. The 4-Hour Workweek (2007) by Tim Ferriss has got to be the ‘bible’ for those looking to live more and work less, leave the corporate rat race, become location independent and/or fund the lifestyle you have been dreaming about. 

This is a nuts and bolts approach to building a business that works for you and not the other way around. 

When you read this book you will realize that it’s not so much about working 4 hours a week but creating a business and lifestyle where you direct what happens as opposed to being pushed along by what happens. 

There are a multitude of practical tips and case studies that help you reinvent how you should do business from ecommerce shortcuts to outsourcing repetitive tasks to taking frequent "mini-retirements."

This book remains on my desk still today and I refer to it constantly for direction.


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4. The Little Red Book of Selling (2004) by Jeffrey Gitomer

In my opinion, Jeffrey Gitomer is the guru of sales. 

This book as well as his entire “Little Book" series is a must have sales book for anyone working as a sales person or aspiring to become one.

It is loaded with small bite-sized pieces of expert "how to sell" information and sales techniques that inspire and encourage the reader to become the expert in sales as well as in the industry in which they sell for.

It is an excellent refresher for the seasoned sales person. 

This sales book is such an easy read, although it is not something that you will read in one sitting.

If there is such a thing as a "devotional" for sales, then the Little Red Book of Selling would be that book.

As I read through it, almost each chapter (if not every page) encourages the reader to stop and think.

It gets the wheels of the imagination turning on how to improve and master the sales techniques that you are now using or if you are a beginner in sales, it turns the light on to what you should be doing to succeed.

This is one book that I would not pass by.

Having this on your bookshelf will be a key sales tool that will be referred to again and again.


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3. The Art of Strategy (1988) by R.L. Wing 

This is, in my opinion, the best in a long line of books translating the strategies and tactics outlined in the classic “The Art of War” by the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu

This is a book that needs to be reread every couple of years. 

The Art of War touches all aspects of life not just business. 

Sun Tzu believed that victory (in any circumstance) is won long before confrontation and insisted that a skilled warrior (businessman, sales person, etc.) observes, calculates, outwits and outmaneuvers his adversaries averting the destruction and fall out from direct battle. 

This translation by R.L. Wing is a clean and crisp direct translation of the original 13 “Chapters” written by Sun Tzu which lends itself to the original harmony and rhythm of the words and philosophies.


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2. Think and Grow Rich (Original 1937) by Napoleon Hill

This is the single best selling personal success book of all times. 

It is a “must Read”. 

I have given copies to my entire family as gifts. 

Every chapter and every paragraph outlines the basic money making practices of over 500 extremely wealthy people that Napoleon Hill analyzed and examined over long periods of time. 

This book outlines the “secret” to success which is really no secret at all.

Think like the rich…..think how you can be rich……think, think, think. 

If you are clueless as to how to become successful in your life then read this book and convince yourself that you can be successful.


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1.    The Little Engine That Could (Original 1930) by Watty Piper. 

You will probably never find this book listed on anyone else’s top 10 best business books or any other top 10 books list. 

I don’t know why since it brings to life in a most simplistic way the single most important lesson to be learned by anyone that wants or needs to be successful. 

Even before reading all of the proceeding 9 books, if you don’t master the wisdom of “I think I Can” then everything else is fruitless.  

I realize that it is a child’s book but the message is ageless. 

If you have made a decision to change your life, master your future and experience your life to the fullest then start with reading this book.

I knew you could !!!


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So there you have it, my Top 10 Greatest Business books of all times. 

Did you notice that a great majority of these books are not only platforms to improve your business skills but your life skills as well?

If you don’t become the best person you can be then your business and financial success will never be the best either.

I am sure that everyone who reads this list has read books that have changed their lives and redirected their business strategies.

I would love to hear your choices.

Please add them to my comments section below so I can share them with everyone else.

Thanks for joining me………………………………………


 
 
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OK, Baby Boomers, we are now at day 5 of our deep dive into the Social Security System and its benefit programs.

Does everything seem relatively clear to you so far?

If you need a refresher, just follow this link to the START so you can be ready for today's breakdown of benefits available to you beyond just those offered after you retire.

Today, I will try to unravel and uncover the inner secrets of:

  • Disability Benefits
  • Survivor's Benefits
  • Disability Benefits
  • Medicare Benefits

         and 
  • Supplemental Security Income


These are all part and parcel programs, like your retirement benefits, run through the Social Security Administration.

Hang on, here we go...................................

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DISABILITY BENEFITS

Becoming disabled is something most people do not like to think about. 

Unfortunately, the odds you will become disabled are greater than you realize. 

Government studies have show that a 20-year-old worker has a 25% chance of incurring a disability before reaching full retirement age.

The SSA pays disability benefits through 2 programs: the Social Security disability insurance program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which we will talk about later.

These benefits are available to people who cannot work due to a medical condition expected to last at least 1 year or result in death. 

While some government programs offer assistance to people with partial or short term disabilities, the SSA does not.

Family members of disabled workers can also receive assistance.

So how do you meet the earnings requirement for disability benefits? 

In general, you must meet two different "earnings" tests: 

1. A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled

and 

2. A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough. 


The following table from the SSA shows the rules for the “recent work” test based on your age when your disability occurred. 

These rules are based on the calendar quarter in which you turned or will turn a certain age.
The next table shows examples of how long you need to work to meet the “duration of work test” by your age at the time of disability. 

For the “duration of work” test, your work does not have to fall within a certain period of time.
 
Putting 2 and 2 together to see if you qualify for these benefits can seem a little daunting but its not as hard as it seems.

Let's look at a quick example:

Say you are disabled due to an accident at the age of 50.

You would qualify for benefits if:

A. You worked a total of at least 7 years (table B) in your past

and

B. You worked at least 5 years out of the 10 years (table A) leading up to the quarter your disability began.
The loss of the primary family wage earner can be devastating, both emotionally and financially. 

Social Security Insurance can help by providing income for the family members of workers who die. 

In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. 

Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program.


SURVIVOR’S BENEFITS



Many people think of Social Security only as a retirement or disability program. 

But some of the FICA taxes you pay provide "survivors" insurance for workers and their families. 

In fact, the value of this insurance is probably more than the value of your personal life insurance.  

Those who may be eligible for survivors benefits include widows, widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children and dependent parents.

Question?  So, how do I earn survivors insurance?

The number of years you need to work for your family to be eligible for these  benefits depends on your age when you die. 

The younger you are, the fewer years you needed to work. 

If you remember our initial talk about SSI, 10 years of work is all you need to be eligible for some benefits.  

OK, so who can get survivors benefits based on your work?

1. Your widow or widower may be eligible to receive full benefits at full retirement age. 

  • The full retirement age for survivors is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956 and will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. 
  • Reduced widow or widower benefits can be received as early as age 60. 
  • If your surviving spouse is disabled, benefits can begin as early as age 50. 

2. Your widow or widower can receive benefits at any age if they take care of your child who is receiving SSI benefits and younger than 16 or disabled. 

3. Your unmarried children who are younger than age 18 (19 if they are attending elementary / secondary school full time) can also receive benefits. 

Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. 

Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid to your stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren or adopted children.  

Under a special rule, if you have worked for only one and one-half years in the three years just before your death, benefits can be paid to your children and your spouse who is caring for the children.

4. Your dependent parents can receive benefits if they are age 62 or older.  

For your parents to qualify as dependents they would have had to provide at least one half of their support.

5. Your surviving divorced spouses may also be eligible for benefits



There is also a "One-time death payment" of $255 available to your spouse or child if you have worked long enough and they meet certain requirements. 

Survivors must apply for this payment within two years of the date of death. 


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So, now we know that the FICA taxes you have been paying all of these years have established for you a certain level of financial security in case you retire, become disabled or pass away.


Let's talk a little about medical insurance.



MEDICARE BENEFITS


Medicare is the government health insurance program for citizens age 65 or older.

People younger than age 65 with certain disabilities like permanent kidney failure can also qualify for Medicare. 

The program helps with the cost of health care, but it does not cover all medical expenses or the cost of most long-term care. 

You may buy a Medicare supplement policy (called Medigap) from a private insurance company to cover some of the costs that Medicare does not.

Medicare is not only financed by payment of your FICA taxes but is also in part by monthly premiums deducted from Social Security checks.  


Even though you apply and qualify for Medicare through Social Security, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the agency in charge of the program. 

Medicare has four parts:

Hospital insurance (Part A): Helps pay for inpatient hospital or skilled nursing facility care (following a hospital stay), some home health care and hospice care.

Medical insurance (Part B): Helps pay for services from doctors, health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment and some preventive services.

Medicare Advantage plans (Part C): Independent plans that citizens with Medicare Parts A and B can choose instead of standard Part A and B health care services.

Medicare Prescription drug coverage (Part D)  Helps pay for the costs of prescription drugs.


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Our final benefit program through the Social Security Administration is an added benefit for citizens with low income status and few financial resources.


The basic SSI amount is the same nationwide. 

However, many states have programs that add money to the basic benefit.


SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)

 

SSI offers additional monthly payments to citizens that meet strict financial guidelines:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Blind or Disabled
  • Individual resources are no more than $2,000. Couples must have resources less than $3,000. 

If you qualify for SSI, you may also be able to get additional help from your state or county. 

For example, you may be able to get Medicaid, food or other social services at discounted or no additional costs.




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Congratulations !!

You just survived 5 straight days with me trying to untangle and demystify the dry and often confusing inner workings of the Social Security System.

We now know that the FICA taxes we have paid in all of these years fund some complicated, yet important benefit programs for us and our families as we face the unknown costs of retirement. 

Remember, we paid for these benefits through our hard work and you are entitled to every last penny the system has to offer. 

Start preparing today so that you won't short change yourself when its most critical.


Make sure to visit the website at:  


http://www.ssa.gov/  


as many times as you need to become completely versed in your available benefits and how to maximize your chances of getting all of the financial support you need.


You will find your benefit program updates there as well as some very easy to read pamphlets and easy to use retirement and benefit calculators.

If you found today’s blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me..........................................................


 
 
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So, Baby Boomers, I have a pretty good feeling that after the past 3 days you have a good grasp on working the "ins" and "outs" of your primary Social Security benefits program.

But, everyone’s family life and structure can be a little different, so why don’t we start today by taking a quick look at your "Beneficiaries" and how your PIA (Primary Insurance Amount) is handled in different scenarios.

Let’s see what different eligibility requirements are needed for your loved ones (or maybe not so loved ones in the case of a divorce) to receive your retirement benefits.

Please pay close attention because here is where the system starts to get quite complicated.


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 ***       A QUICK LOOK AT BENEFICIARIES    ***


1. PRIMARY EARNER

  • Can receive 100% of their PIA at full retirement age
  • Can receive reduced benefits starting at age 62+ (+- 75% depending on age) 
  • Can receive increased benefits with delayed retirement (8%/year up to age 70)


2. PRIMARY EARNER’S SPOUSE


  • Can receive 50% of spouse’s PIA at full retirement age
  • Can receive reduced benefits starting at age 62+ (+- 35% depending on age)


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3. PRIMARY EARNER’S WIDOW OR WIDOWER


If you are the widow or widower of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can:

  • Receive benefits as early as age 50 if you are disabled AND the disability started before or within seven years of the primary earner’s death.
  • Receive survivors benefits at any age if you take care of the deceased worker's child who is under age 16 or is disabled and receives benefits on the worker's record. 

Note: These requirements get very complicated so I highly recommend that if you are not the primary earner then you contact the SSA directly for a review and support.  In fact, if you are a widow, widower (or surviving divorced spouse) cannot apply online for survivor’s benefits. 


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4. PRIMARY EARNER’S DIVORCED SPOUSE

  • Can receive 50% of ex-spouse’s PIA at full retirement age
  • Can receive reduced benefits starting at age 62+ (+- 35% depending on age)

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:

  1. You were married longer than 10 years 
  2. You have been divorced for at least 2 years
  3. Your ex-spouse remains unmarried until 60 years old
  4. Your ex-spouse is 62 or older
  5. Your ex-spouse is not eligible for a bigger benefit
  6. You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits. 


I told you this would get complicated.

Here are more things to note about these conditions of eligibility:

Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse (who meets the age or disability requirement as a widow or widower) won't affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the primary earner’s record.

If your divorced spouse remarries before age 60, they generally cannot collect benefits on your record unless their later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).

The benefit for the primary worker or current spouse is not reduced. 

The same is true if you have more than one eligible ex-spouse. 

Its good news for your ex-spouse if they remarry after reaching the age 60 (age 50 if disabled) because their remarriage will not affect their eligibility to collect on your benefits.

Also, if an ex-spouse is caring for a child (former spouse's natural or legally adopted child) under age 16 or disabled who is getting benefits on the record of the primary earner, they would not have to meet the length-of-marriage rule.

There is a maximum family benefit amount allowed so if you qualify because you have the worker's child in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the worker's record.


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5. SPOUSE WITH CHILD UNDER 16 OR DISABLED

  • Can receive 50% of their spouses’ applicable PIA at any age
  • Benefits will not be reduced
  • Benefits can be stopped and restarted based on familial status (remarry, etc.)


6. DIVORCED SPOUSE WITH CHILD UNDER 16 OR DISABLED


If the aforementioned 10/2/60 “Divorced Spouse” requirements are met then they

  • Can receive 50% of their spouses’ applicable PIA at any age
  • Benefits will not be reduced
  • Benefits can be stopped and restarted based on familial status (remarry, etc.)


7. CHILDREN UNDER 18 (19 IF IN SCHOOL AND UNMARRIED)


  • Can receive 50% of the parent’s/primary wage earner’s PIA


8. CHILDREN OVER 18 IF DISABLED


  • Can receive 50% of the parent’s/primary wage earner’s PIA


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Hopefully, this information wasn’t as bad as I first made it out to be.

Sure, it’s a little complicated but, believe it or not, the Social Security website has everything broken down in easy to follow steps that make it easier for you to find answers to your questions.

Again, that website is http://www.ssa.gov/

I trust you will return tomorrow for the completion of our little journey though the Social Security system?

We will look at a quick overview of the different benefits available from the Social Security system beyond just the retirement benefits.

We have already touched on a few high points of “Survivors Benefits” as well as “Disability Benefits” in our discussions already and we will talk about “Medicare Benefits” and “Supplemental Security Income” as well.


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If you found today’s blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me..........................................................


 
 
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Today, Baby Boomers we start to dig into the meat and potatoes of the Social Security system.

Here are a few definitions, requirements and handy tips you should know before we begin. 

Remember, contribution rates, applications and benefits have varied over the years since the Social Security Administration first came on line in 1935. 

The following information is the most current I can offer based on the 2014 requirements.


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Program Purpose:  The retirement benefits of the Social Security System are an insurance meant to supplement the savings, investments and other sources of income in the retirement years of wage earning citizens.

Eligibility:  All U.S. citizens are eligible for Social Security based on their earnings history.  

As we discussed yesterday, credits are earned by paying the FICA tax.  

In 2014, you earn 1 credit for every $1,200 in earnings up to 4 in a year and 40 in 10 years.  

This is officially known as your “Primary Insurance Account” or "PIA.  

Self-employed individuals and military personnel earn credits the same way as standard employees do. 

Insured Status:  “Fully Insured Status” means you have earned the needed amount of credits (40 in 10 years) to receive full available insurance benefits based on your age at application.  

“Currently Insured Status” means you have restrictive coverage and minimum benefits under the program having attained at least 6 credits in a period of 3 years and 3 months ending with death, disability or retirement.

Taxes: 
Employees contribute 6.2% and employers 6.2% of your earnings to FICA.  

If you are self-employed then you contribute the entire 12.4%. 

Contribution Base:  Capped at $117,000 in 2014.

Benefit Amount:  Based on your monthly average of your highest earning 35 years of employment.

Application:  Up to 3 months prior to benefit eligibility month

Payment: Made by direct deposit, debit card or electronic transfer account.


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The official website is: http://www.ssa.gov/

Once you create an account (if you haven’t already) you can find out how much your eligible benefits are.

There is also a retirement estimator tool found at: 

http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/estimator.htm

Most of us baby boomers are interested in the Retirement Benefits that paying into the Social Security System has afforded us.

But, if you remember yesterday’s discussion, I pointed out that there are actually 5 different benefit programs now processed through the SSA.

These are:

  • Retirement Benefits
  • Disability Benefits
  • Survivor’s Benefits
  • Medicare Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income

They can all kind of tie into each other based on your retirement situation so it is important to take a look at each one individually.

But, how they are administered are all based on the primary retirement benefit program so let’s take a simple step by step look at your retirement benefits first.


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Retirement Benefits

A “full retirement” requires you have a total of 40 credits at retirement age. 

In 2014, the calculation are as follows:

If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your full retirement age is 65.

If you were born between 1938 and 1942 then add 2 months per year after the age of 65.  

For instance, if you were born in 1940 your full retirement age is 65 years and 6 months.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954 your retirement age is 66.

If you were born between 1955 and 1959 add 2 months per year.

If you were born in 1960 or later then your full retirement age is 67.


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Why did the government make it so complicated to figure out when you retirement age is?

Why didn’t they just leave well enough alone?

Well, a couple of things added to the confusion.

First of all, the original Social Security Act of 1935 set the minimum age for receiving full retirement benefits at 65.

In the 1980’s Congress noted significant improvements in the health of senior citizens and increases in average life expectancy.

Since the program first began paying monthly SSI benefits back in 1940,  the average life expectancy for men at the age of 65 had  increased by almost 4 years to the ripe old age of 81.

For women (not to be outdone by men) reaching the age of 65, their average life expectancy had increased almost 6 years to the age of 84.

In 1998, the average retirement age for both men and women retiring was 64.

In 1998, nearly 69% of men and women who retired started taking Social Security benefits before age 65.

Did you think our government wanted to foot this extra expense?

Obviously, the characteristics of the average US senior citizen had changed more than the government had anticipated.


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But, did you know that, if eligible, you can take an “early retirement” with reduced benefits at the age of 62. 

If you retire due to health problems, then disability benefits may also be available. 

If you so desire you can opt for a “delayed retirement.”  

Each additional year of work is an extra year of earnings, which increase your benefit.  

There is an automatic percentage increase per year you delay retirement up to the age of 70 which can be as much as 8% if you were born in 1943 or later.

So, if you were born in 1943 and you delay your retirement benefits until you are 70 you could receive up to 124% (3 years X 8%) of your basic benefits had you applied for retirement benefits when you were 66.


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Some of us Baby Boomers may be considering working as long as we can to rebuild our retirement savings accounts. 

In this case, if you plan on working while receiving benefits you can but some limitations apply.

In the case of early retirees, $1 in benefits is deducted for every $2 in earnings exceeding the annual limit of $15,480 in 2014.

If you are working in the year of your retirement then only $1 of every $3 earned is deducted after the annual limit of $41,400.

There are no limits on the amount of income you can earn starting in the month of your full retirement age.

Do you have to pay taxes on your benefits?

Not if your sole source of income is your social security benefits.

However, if you have other substantial income such as wages, self-employment, interest and dividends that must be reported on your tax return in addition to your benefits.

If you file a Federal tax return as an “individual” with a combined income (earnings and SS benefits) between $25,000 and $34,000 you must pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits.

This can rise up to 85% if your income exceeds $34,000.

If you file a joint return and you and your spouse have a combined income between $32,000 and $44,000 you may have to pay income taxes on up to 50% of your benefits and up to 85% if your income exceeds $44,000. 


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So, are you feeling a little better prepared for how you are going to utilize your social security benefits?

Tomorrow we will continue our discussion on the remaining benefit programs and hopefully answer some of your questions like:

Am I eligible for spousal benefits?

Can I collect benefits from an ex-spouse?

Are my children eligible for benefits?


If you found today's blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me..........................................................


 
 
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Baby Boomers…Did you get a chance to read yesterday's opening blog on Social Security Benefits made easy?

How did you do on the AARP quiz?

I told you things were not as simple with our Social Security System as we had hoped.

So, do you have any idea where the whole thing started?

Are you even interested?

Well, just in case you find yourself cornered in a high-brow conversation at a cocktail party with several other boomers discussing the history of social welfare and government reforms, here’s a quick overview of the birth of our wonderful federal program.


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A small scale version of Social Security insurance was developed as a program during the Great Depression of the 1930's.

Strangely enough, the economic scenario our country was much the same as the mid 2000’s we just lived through.

The great stock market crash of 1929 had destroyed the value of many Americans' retirement savings.

IRA’s dwindled, banks failed and personal financial futures became despondent overnight.

All that was missing was a major housing bubble collapse, huh?

In 1929, the poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent.

Things did not look good for the future of senior citizens in the U.S.

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to advocate federal assistance for the senior citizen demographic by signing into law the  Social Security Act in August, 1935 as part of the “New Deal” program.

The Act was a part of Roosevelt’s plan to combat the growing instabilities in the modern American culture, including advanced aging, poverty and unemployment.

The SSA provided health and financial benefits to retirees and the unemployed including comprehensive insurance payments at death.

These payments to existing retirees were to be funded by a payroll tax on current worker’s wages, half as a payroll tax and half paid by the employer.

The act also gave money directly to the states to provide financial programs and assistance to senior citizens in the form of unemployment insurance, aid to families with dependent children, maternal and child welfare, public health services and services for the blind.


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Believe it or not, The Social Security Act (SSA) was only 37 pages long when first approved.

It has blossomed some over the years hasn't it?

The very first social security cards were issued in 1937. 

Some 20 million were issued in first year .

In 1939, the funding for this program was restructured and handed over to the Internal Revenue Service and renamed the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). 

Social Security payroll taxes are thus often referred to as "FICA taxes."

If you want my opinion, I think the Internal revenue department owns everything and runs everything in this country (and a few small third world countries as well).

In 1940, the first monthly benefit check was issued to Ida Mae Fuller for $22.54.

Sorry, but she looks just like my Grandmother?

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There have been other updates over the years to keep up with the growing pains of the program.

Benefits increased and regular cost of living adjustments (COLAs) were established in 1950.

The first attempt at a disability program was added to Social Security in 1954

The early retirement age was lowered to age 62 with reduced benefits in the early 60’s.

In 1965, Medicare health care benefits were added to the same program.

Over 20 million senior citizens signed up for benefits in the first three years of the new program so a Medicare tax of 0.7% was added to pay for increased Medicare expenses. 

In 1972, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program became a federal program and was assigned to Social Security Administration.

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So, now that you know everything that is important to know about the formation of the Social Security system, there are two things to remember for your next cocktail party conversation:


1.   The Social Security benefits that you are entitled to receive are actually a form of insurance that you pay into the system through your FICA taxes.  

  • You become eligible to receive these benefits by accumulating credits by paying FICA taxes.  
  • You receive one credit for every $1,200 of earnings in a calendar year.
  • You can earn a maximum  4 credits a year.
  • You need at least 40 credits to be eligible.
  • The number of credits you need to be eligible for benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit.


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2.   There are actually 5 different benefit programs under the umbrella of the Social Security program.

      Each has its own qualifications, requirements and benefit structures.  

      These include:

  • Retirement Benefits
  • Disability Benefits
  • Survivor’s Benefits
  • Medicare Benefits
         and
  • Supplemental Security Income

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Hopefully, this is not all incredibly boring to you because it is a very important program to understand and can play a very important role in your retirement financial plans.

Tomorrow we will begin to dig a little deeper into these different benefit programs, how you qualify and what resources are available to you.

If you found my blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me..........................................................



 
 
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Baby Boomers……..I know we are not old enough yet to benefit from the Social Security System but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be already planning for how to best utilize what this system has to offer when we do need it.

There is no better time than now to get prepared for what will be a major contributor to our post retirement income stream.

Are you as confused about the Social Security system as I am?

When is the last time you checked out the website?

Did you know that this system is revised and updated almost every year?

Did you know that some major changes affecting your benefits were put in place in 2014?

There is a free handbook you can request from the Social Security administration which will guide you through the system.

The handbook has 27 chapters and 2,728 separate rules governing its benefits. 

Do you have your reading glasses handy?

And a pot of coffee?

Not clear on what each of these rules mean that control your benefits?


Well, if that's not enough "light" reading then you can dive into the Social Security Program Operating Manual (otherwise cutely known as "POMS")  which has thousands of in depth explanations of those rules which provide the proper guidance on implementing those 2,728 rules. 


Hey, I'm growing old just thinking about all of that reading.


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Last week I attended a free seminar called "Social Security and It's Benefits" hosted by AARP as part of their “Community Educators Program.”

I found the announcement on the AARP website just by clicking on my state tab.

While I am not a huge advocate of the overall effectiveness of AARP, they do offer a variety of useful benefits that the average Baby Boomer can use that more than pays for the cost of their membership.

I live in Surprise (yep, that’s what it’s called), your basic non-descript master-planned suburb Northwest of Phoenix, Arizona.

You bet I was “surprised’ when I saw this little event being held at the local Senior Citizens Center smack dab in the center of our sleepy little community.

Being that the event was scheduled for lunchtime on a Thursday I didn't expect much of a crowd in attendance.

To my “surprise” there were over 30 senior citizens and they ranged in ages from their 50’s to probably the mid 70’s. 

Even more “surprising” was the fact that almost 75 percent were women.


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I came to this event more as an objective observer hiding behind my “reporter” status for my blog.

I had never been to an AARP event, let alone one targeted to a senior citizen topic like social security.

I was curious how professional the presentation would be and who would be interested enough to attend.

Being that I am only 57, I didn't think there would be any value in the topic for me.

Well, let me tell you, I was completely wrong.



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The presentation (although only 45 minutes long) was insightful, easy to understand and full of important information that even a younger audience would find useful.

In fact, upon leaving the presentation I was wondering to myself why there aren’t any classes at the high school or at least college levels to instruct our younger generations about the social security system and prepare them for their future.

It seems like the government has always just left it up to each individual taxpayer to decide when they felt it was important enough  to dedicate their time to become acquainted with the benefits and try to figure out how to navigate their best course of action.

Unfortunately, this usually happens too late for the average senior citizen to totally grasp the intricacies of the entire system.

It is a government program after all and that automatically means that it will be complicated and difficult to navigate by nature.

2,278 rules to understand. right?


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Anyway, I am going to dedicate this week to helping you, my baby boomer followers, get a head start on the Social Security System so you can prepare to make the best decisions on how you want to use your well-earned government assistance (insurance) to help finance your retirement.

Are you ready to start today with a quick quiz to see how much you already know?

Although there are several different quizzes on the AARP website I found this one to be the most eye opening.


http://www.aarp.org/work/social-security/info-11-2011/social-security-benefits-quiz.html

It’s a simple 10 question quiz touching on the basics of the program.

Strangely enough, I have been researching social security pretty extensively and I really did listen attentively at the seminar last week and I still only scored 8 out of 10 on the quiz.

Let me know how you do in the comments section below and let me know if there any particular questions you have so I can cover them over the next few days in our discussions.

Tomorrow, we’ll start digging in to some fun basics about how the Social Security System is funded and how the 5 different benefit programs work.

Hopefully there will be plenty of good "surprises."


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If you found my blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me..........................................................


 
 
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I think it was David Lee Roth of Van Halen fame that said:

"Money can't buy you happiness but it can get you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it."


Well, money can make you do some silly things.

What a better time, here on this "Silly Saturday" to display some extreme silliness brought on by having extreme amounts of money.

And there is no better place to look for extreme,e amounts of money or extreme amounts of silliness than in the country of Dubai.

If you didn't already know, Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates located on the southern edge of the Persian Gulf.

Dubai was nothing more than a vast sand wasteland with oil until 20 years ago.

According to a Vanity Fair article I read:


"Then Dubai grew........very fast. 


The plan was money. 


The architect was money. 


The designer was money and the builder was money. 


And if you ever wondered what money would look like if it were left to its own devices, it’s Dubai."

Check out the little slide show I found showing 25 really silly things you have to put up with if you have way too much money and you are living in Dubai.

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If you found my blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me............................................


 
 
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I have always considered myself a bit of a music snob.  

And this being a "Fervid Friday" is there anything you are more passionate about than music?

I think all Baby Boomers will agree that we grew up in the greatest music era ever.

And this statement is made giving complete props to the music lovers of the early 1800's knowing full well they listened to the such greats as Beethoven, Rossini, Strauss and Mozart.

Yes, we experienced the birth of rock and roll but there was so much more.

We lived through such an incredible array of diverse sounds, styles and blends of music quite unlike any other generation.

Just think of the incredibly different sounds of the bands we loved:  the jazz inflected heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, the progressive symphonic art of Yes, the primal funk avante garde rhythms of the Talking Heads all the way to the folk poetry of James Taylor and Carole King.  

There was even the techno-electronic strains of Kraftwerk, the psychedelic blues art rock of Pink Floyd, the pure metal of Motorhead and the southern fried country sounds of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

And through the past 40 years there has been Steely Dan.

The music snob's primal band.

Well, I got a chance to scratch another item off my bucket list last Tuesday night when I saw Steely Dan perform live at the Comerica Theater in Phoenix.

In 40 years I can't believe I never had the chance to see them live but it all made up for itself Tuesday night during their 2 hour show.

PictureDONALD FAGEN and WALTER BECKER
Those who know Steely Dan, are aware that there are no gimmicks, no flashy pyrotechnics and no elaborate laser light displays at their concerts just straight forward incredibly talented music.

To give a simple historic description of Steely Dan is to call them an American jazz rock/rock band founded by core members Walter Becker and Donald Fagen

The band's popularity was highest in the 1970's and early 1980's and their seven albums over that period of time blended elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop.

Rolling Stone Magazine has called them:

"The perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies."


How about a short history?

PictureSTEELY DAN CIRCA 1970'S
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker first found each other while attending Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. 

As rumor has it, Fagen was walking through the student union (or a local cafe called The Red Balloon), he heard Becker practicing on his electric guitar.

In an interview, Fagen retells his experience: 


"I hear this guy practicing, and it sounded very professional and contemporary. It sounded like, you know, like a black person, really."

He introduced himself to Becker and, as they say, the rest was history.

Discovering that they had almost reciprocal tastes in music and common interests in jazz, blues, and even contemporary literature, particularly the "beat" genre referred to as "Black Humor", they begin collaborating on songs which they performed in various pickup bands.


They spent this time writing songs for other performers and even played in the touring band of a popular act I'm sure you will all remember: Jay and the Americans.

Certainly you remember their hit remake of the Drifters song "This Magic Moment?"
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In 1972, Walter and Donald put together the first of their multitude of incredibly talented backing bands and decided to record their first album.  

As a result, an adventurous new sound is created and "Can't Buy A Thrill" is released under the band's adventurous new name  "Steely Dan" which, if you didn't already know,  refers to the infamous family of dildos described in a steamy sex passage in the William Burroughs' novel, "Naked Lunch."


The original charter members are: Denny Dias (Guitar), Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (guitar), Jim Hodder (drums) and David Palmer (vocals).

PictureSTEELY DAN CIRCA 2012
Steely Dan recorded 7 platinum albums between 1972 and 1981 including the groundbreaking "Aja" in 1977.  

They have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and truly created a major part of the soundtrack of the '70s with hits such as:


  • Reelin' in the Years
  • Dirty Work
  • Do It Again
  • Rikki Don't Lose That Number
  • Hey Nineteen
  • Black Friday
         and
  • Babylon Sisters.


All of their albums have been recorded with a revolving cast of incredibly talented session musicians including such greats as Larry Carlton, Jeff Porcaro, Michael McDonald, Royce Jones, Wayne Shorter and Lee Ritenour.

They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001.


PictureWALTER BECKER
So what makes Steely Dan's music so different and why would I consider myself a "snob" for loving it?

Steely Dan's music is very complex, built on multiple layers of jazz-influenced counter point structures and revolving brass and vocal harmonies. 

If you listen to the words you will soon discover that Becker and Fagen write highly satirical lyrics bent at poking fun at the basic mores of life that surround them including the music industry, drugs, love, relationships, and human behavior. 

A quote from a biography written by Stephen Thomas Erlewine says it best:

The music of Steely Dan is "cerebral, wry and eccentric."

It is highly noted that Walter and Donald are also very well known not only for their musical talents but for "their notorious, and near-obsessive perfectionism in the recording studio" as well.


For example, during the year it took to record the album "Gauchoin 1980, Becker and Fagen used at least 40 different studio musicians and 11 different engineers.

That's perfectionism at it's finest.

PictureDONALD FAGEN
So, I consider Tuesday night as an evening spent with two of the greatest musicians alive.  

I bet a lot of fellow Baby Boomers from the Phoenix area feel the same way too.

This tour is called the "Jamlot Ever After" tour and it lives up to it's billing.

They playfully worked their way through 2 hours of their greatest hits starting the show off with a "Cubano Chant" before Donald and Walter joined the band on stage to kick everything off with an intense version of "Black Cow."

It was amazing how many hit songs they dug out of my memories.

The highlight of the evening, for me at least, was a ridiculously tight and extended version of "Bodhisattva."

Obviously, both men are showing their age and at times Donald struggled with some vocals and Walter struggled with some guitar riffs but both were professional enough to understand their limitations and they intelligently worked around them.


Their band was stellar especially Keith Carlock on drums and Jon Herington on guitar.


Both of these guys play like they are still 18. 


Fagen and Becker repeatedly emphasized that this was the "greatest" backing band they had ever played with.

It looks like the band is heading East and up to Canada for the rest of the tour which will run at least through September.

If you consider yourself a "music snob" like me then don't miss the chance to see them.



PictureWALTER BECKER

Here's a few spontaneous reviews of the concert I found on Facebook:

  • "Best show in ages!"
  •  "Haven't missed a tour in the last 15 years and this one was the best. Excellent work tonight members of the Dan!"
  • "Best concert I've seen in a long long time... My first SD concert and it was AWESOME!"
  • "Pretzel Logic tonight for first time on this tour"
  • "Great show, thanks for hitting the road and sharing the brilliance! The songs may have originated in the 70's but they sound timeless to me. Any of us would be happy to turn out a "Black Cow" or a "Babylon Sisters" today. Or even 50 years from now!" 
  • "Great show!!! So glad I got to go. One of the best shows I have ever seen. Love Steely Dan.... xxoo"



What more can I say?



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If you found my blog helpful, interesting or even funny I bet your friends would to. 

It's easy to tell them about it.

Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.

The more Baby Boomers we can help, the better place we make this world !!!

Thanks for joining me..........................................................