(p. B5) Mr. Kotlikoff, 64, did not set out to become Dr. Social Security. Two decades ago, he and a colleague were studying the adequacy of life insurance. To do so, you need to know something about Social Security. Soon, Mr. Kotlikoff was developing a computer model for various payouts from the government program and realized that consumers might actually pay to use it.
From that instinct, a service called Maximize My Social Security was born, though it wasn’t easy to do and get it right. “We had to develop very detailed code, and the whole Social Security rule book is written in geek,” he said. “It’s impossible to understand.”
Because of that, most people filing for benefits have to get lucky enough to encounter a true expert in their social circle, at a Social Security office or on its hotline. They are rare, and this information dissymmetry offends Mr. Kotlikoff. “We have a system that produces inequality systematically,” he said. It’s not because of what the beneficiaries earned, either; it’s simply based on their (perhaps random) access to those who have a deep understanding of the rules.
. . .
“Get What’s Yours” is a useful book. Indeed, we all need better instruction guides for the many parts of our financial lives that only grow more complex over time.
For the full commentary, see:
RON LIEBER. “YOUR MONEY; The Social Security Maze and Other U.S. Mysteries.” The New York Times (Sat., MARCH 14, 2015): B1 & B5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 13, 2015.)
The book under discussion is:
Kotlikoff, Laurence J., Philip Moeller, and Paul Solman. Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing out Your Social Security. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.