Get Whats YoursFiguring out when to start taking Social Security benefits shouldn’t require a degree in economics, but the complicated rules mean many Americans are not getting all the benefits they are entitled to. The new book Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security aims to help beneficiaries understand precisely what they can collect and when they should collect it, potentially earning them tens of thousands in added retirement income.

The authors — Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff and economics journalists Philip Moeller and Paul Solman – say that one of the biggest mistakes many people make is claiming Social Security benefits early, at age 62. While you may think you need the money right away, most people are better off waiting until full retirement age or even longer. The authors also explain in detail lesser-known strategies for collecting increased benefits, culled from the Social Security system’s 2,728 “core rules.”  For example, a husband reaching full retirement age may want to collect spousal benefits while allowing his own benefits to continue accruing until he reaches age 70. The book covers other strategies, such as “file and suspend” and “start stop start,” all presented in an entertaining and easy-to-read style.

While the book includes discussion of the current financial state of the Social Security program as well as a debate among the authors about its long-term viability, the main focus is on explaining how the benefits work. Get What’s Yours clarifies spousal benefits, survivor benefits, disability benefits, benefits for divorced spouses, and what to do if you are single. According to the authors, following their directives could earn you thousands of dollars in additional benefits. At the very least, by reading their book you should come away with a far better understanding of how the Social Security system works, and how you can work it to your financial advantage.

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