"Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:13 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 6:14 pm
LadyGeek wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:25 pm
FYI - We have a different on-going effort here: SocialSecurity.tools updated to include spousal benefits.
Yep, I think SocialSecurity.tools is the bee's knees. There's a reason I link to it from the homepage of Open Social Security. :)
FYI - Bees do have knees. :) *

Since it's ready for prime time, this tool is now in the wiki: Social Security: member contributions

* For those unfamiliar with this idiom, it's a compliment.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:15 pm

I cloned your source code onto my Linux PC, which is configured as a server. I only needed to make a minor change to get it to run.

Your code runs relative to 'docroot'. My install runs from a directory that is not docroot. In index.html, change the base relative path to the directory containing index.html.

Code: Select all

<base href="/">
There may be a problem somewhere, as refreshing the "About" and "Contact" pages with my browser result in an error. There is no problem refreshing the home page. (The page refresh works on the website, this is only a problem running locally.)

Code: Select all

The requested URL /open-social-security/contact was not found on this server.
OTOH, I don't see any pages like "contact.html" or "about.html". Does the code assume the path starts at 'docroot'?

I note the use of Google Analytics, which is documented in the privacy policy. I'm not sure if it does anything running on my own PC.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:12 pm

LadyGeek, I'm sorry but I probably can't give very good answers here. I just followed the Angular tutorial from Angular.io and built from there, so there's a whole lot that I don't know about how Angular is actually working behind the scenes.

I do know that I was having a similar refresh problem and after finding an article on the topic I added the script that's currently in index.html, which fixed the problem. But I don't really understand how that code works. (I think, roughly, the idea is that it caches the URL that they tried to access, then it redirects them to that URL after loading index.html. But I'm not familiar with sessionStorage or how it works at all.)

As far as "contact" and "about," they are Angular "components." (In Angular, a component is basically a chunk of html, script, and css that all work together for a certain display.) And the routing for them is handled via the app-routing.module.ts file.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:56 pm

No worries, I had a feeling that angular was managing the code and I understand your level of experience. (I have no experience with angular, but I know how to configure a server...)

My intention was to give it a "stress test" from a software perspective. Since everyone else is checking the numbers and ensuring the report is accurate, I looked at functionality and the user interface. For example, are there any situations which "break" the tool? Is the documentation clear? Is the tool easy to use? That sort of thing.

My desktop testing flushed out a problem, so I'm reporting it. The tool may not have been designed to work this way. I'll leave the decision to fix it (or not) to you.

For comparison, the benefits calculator was designed to work this way. See: Re: SocialSecurity.tools updated to include spousal benefits, so I decided to try it here...

=============================
For those without a software background - the tool works fine. This is a minor detail that no one but developers care about.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:32 am

afan has a question which I've moved into a new thread. See: [Calculating future Social Security benefits: How do I adjust the discount rate?]
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by milo minderbinder » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:13 pm

I'm not sure this could be reflected in a calculator but folks considering taking SS before 65 should consider the impact of additional income on ACA subsidies.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Tue Aug 07, 2018 10:47 am

Two big updates went live today (the first of which was a much larger project than I had anticipated -- almost two months of work as discussed above).

First: The calculator now considers voluntary suspension possibilities. For example, if one person in a couple filed at age 62 and is currently age 65, the calculator will consider whether they should suspend their benefit from FRA until 70 (or some earlier date).

I don't expect that this will affect that many people, but it was a necessary prerequisite for implementing functionality for people who are receiving disability benefits -- which is my next major goal for the calculator.

Second: The calculator now provides a table as part of the output, with year-by-year benefit amounts for the recommended strategy (and another table if the user chooses to test alternative claiming ages).
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by One Ping » Tue Aug 07, 2018 11:06 am

Very cool, Mike!

I really like the simplicity of your tool. It's just complex enough to provide really meaningful results. Not too simple to be almost meaningless, and not so complex as to be daunting ... Kind of Goldilocks and the Three Bears-like.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by JoeRetire » Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:42 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 10:47 am
Second: The calculator now provides a table as part of the output, with year-by-year benefit amounts for the recommended strategy (and another table if the user chooses to test alternative claiming ages).
Nice feature!

But it seems odd that the year-by-year table starts at 2016.

Why not start at the current year? Or at the first year benefits begin?

I don't see much value in years with $0 in each cell.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Tue Aug 07, 2018 5:29 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 4:42 pm
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Tue Aug 07, 2018 10:47 am
Second: The calculator now provides a table as part of the output, with year-by-year benefit amounts for the recommended strategy (and another table if the user chooses to test alternative claiming ages).
Nice feature!

But it seems odd that the year-by-year table starts at 2016.

Why not start at the current year? Or at the first year benefits begin?

I don't see much value in years with $0 in each cell.
It currently starts at the year in which you turn 62 (or the year in which the older spouse in a couple turns 62).

Good point/suggestion. Thank you.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by SGM » Wed Aug 08, 2018 11:01 am

Once I filed and suspended I no longer could see my PIA. DWs restrict :twisted: ed application and spousal benefit was a little higher than I expected. I assume SS adjusted my PIA for inflation for calculating her spousal benefit because the timing was about 1 1/2 years after my FRA. Looking at my payout at age 70 there is an additional 7% increase above the 32% from waiting from 66 to 70.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:36 pm

Two updates today:

1) As suggested by JoeRetire, the table output now begins with the first year in which a benefit is received, rather than the year in which the user turns age 62.

2) As requested by multiple parties, when the "advanced options" setting is selected, there is now an option (below the input for discount rate) to assume that Social Security benefits will be cut by a selected percentage, effective as of a selected year in the future.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:08 pm

Reading this from a "newbie" perspective, your guidance on the discount rate can be confusing.
The yield on 20-year TIPS is generally considered an appropriate discount rate for these purposes.
The link actually goes to Daily Treasury Real Yield Curve Rates . TIPS are only mentioned in the "fine print" as:
Real yields on Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) at "constant maturity" are interpolated by the U.S. Treasury from Treasury's daily real yield curve.
Could you provide simplified guidance that the default value of 0.9% represents the number in the "20 YR" column of that table?

Suggestion: Scrape the page and "pre-enter" the latest value in real-time.
===============

The "Advanced" entries are used in the output calculations whether they are visible or not. Please supply that info as part of the report. Otherwise, there is no way for me to know what was used.

For example, I changed the default rate to 0.0% and unchecked the "Advanced" box. There was no change in the calculation result.

In addition to the "Advanced" entries, I recommended restating what the user entered for every field as part of the report output. There will be no question what was entered, if a box is checked, or which option was selected.

It's also much easier to capture that output and copy it to a spreadsheet, for example.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by tc101 » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:21 pm

I am 68 and single. It tells me to file immediately. Why? Most people would say I should wait until I turn 70.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:24 pm

tc101 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:21 pm
I am 68 and single. It tells me to file immediately. Why?
Because that is the option that maximized expected present value, given the inputs provided. Without additional information about the inputs you used, it's hard to say anything more than that.
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Post by ObliviousInvestor » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:26 pm

LadyGeek wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:08 pm
Could you provide simplified guidance that the default value of 0.9% represents the number in the "20 YR" column of that table?
Good suggestion. I'll state that more clearly.
LadyGeek wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:08 pm
Suggestion: Scrape the page and "pre-enter" the latest value in real-time.
This is basically what's already happening, via the Quandl API. Unfortunately it is sometimes delayed to show the second-latest value. I tried using the Fed's "FRED" API, but couldn't get it to work. (Something to do with cross-origin resource sharing and a missing HTTP header.)
LadyGeek wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:08 pm
The "Advanced" entries are used in the output calculations whether they are visible or not. Please supply that info as part of the report. Otherwise, there is no way for me to know what was used.
LadyGeek wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:08 pm
In addition to the "Advanced" entries, I recommended restating what the user entered for every field as part of the report output. There will be no question what was entered, if a box is checked, or which option was selected.
I'm somewhat hesitant to implement these suggestions. One of my primary goals with the calculator is to keep output to a level where we avoid information-overload for a typical user (i.e., somebody without the analytical skills or deep interest that are typical of a Boglehead).
LadyGeek wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:08 pm
It's also much easier to capture that output and copy it to a spreadsheet, for example.
Another user suggested some sort of optional downloadable output. That's something I plan to look into. (Perhaps it could satisfy your goals and mine simultaneously, in that the optional downloadable output could be more detailed.)
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:52 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:26 pm
Another user suggested some sort of optional downloadable output. That's something I plan to look into. (Perhaps it could satisfy your goals and mine simultaneously, in that the optional downloadable output could be more detailed.)
I would suggest the Comma Separated Values (CSV) format. It's plain text which can be used anywhere. Any spreadsheet will import the data directly.

It could be as simple as creating the CSV output in a new browser window. Then, tell the user to save that page from the web browser. (Tip: Set the HTML document title to the suggested filename.)
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:00 pm

LadyGeek wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:52 pm
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:26 pm
Another user suggested some sort of optional downloadable output. That's something I plan to look into. (Perhaps it could satisfy your goals and mine simultaneously, in that the optional downloadable output could be more detailed.)
I would suggest the Comma Separated Values (CSV) format. It's plain text which can be used anywhere. Any spreadsheet will import the data directly.

It could be as simple as creating the CSV output in a new browser window. Then, tell the user to save that page from the web browser. (Tip: Set the HTML document title to the suggested filename.)
:thumbsup Thank you.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:07 pm

tc101 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:21 pm
I am 68 and single. It tells me to file immediately. Why? Most people would say I should wait until I turn 70.
The tool and most people, likely have a different set of assumptions.

What did you use for a Mortality Table selection? If you choose "Assumed age at death" you may end up with a different suggestion.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 08, 2018 3:10 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:36 pm
1) As suggested by JoeRetire, the table output now begins with the first year in which a benefit is received, rather than the year in which the user turns age 62.
Thanks!

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by tc101 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:11 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:24 pm
tc101 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:21 pm
I am 68 and single. It tells me to file immediately. Why?
Because that is the option that maximized expected present value, given the inputs provided. Without additional information about the inputs you used, it's hard to say anything more than that.
I used all the default inputs, except birthday.
Single male, born Jan 30 1950
Mortality table 2015 SS Period life table
Not working
0.91% discount rate
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:26 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:11 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:24 pm
tc101 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:21 pm
I am 68 and single. It tells me to file immediately. Why?
Because that is the option that maximized expected present value, given the inputs provided. Without additional information about the inputs you used, it's hard to say anything more than that.
I used all the default inputs, except birthday.
Single male, born Jan 1950
Mortality table 2015 SS Period life table
Not working
0.91% discount rate
Well, the system was designed so that, for an unmarried person with average life expectancy, filing at 62 would be roughly as good as filing at 70 (or any age in between).

You are a male, so that pushes you slightly in favor of filing earlier. Life expectancies have increased somewhat, so that pushes things slightly in favor of filing later. And real interest rates are currently somewhat lower than those baked into the system, which pushes things slightly in favor of filing later.

So, given those inputs, the option that maximizes expected value is for you to wait some of the way, but not all the way, until 70. If you test filing at age 70, you'll see that the difference is slim (about 1.7% change in expected PV).
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by tc101 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:43 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:26 am
tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:11 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:24 pm
tc101 wrote:
Wed Aug 08, 2018 2:21 pm
I am 68 and single. It tells me to file immediately. Why?
Because that is the option that maximized expected present value, given the inputs provided. Without additional information about the inputs you used, it's hard to say anything more than that.
I used all the default inputs, except birthday.
Single male, born Jan 1950
Mortality table 2015 SS Period life table
Not working
0.91% discount rate
Well, the system was designed so that, for an unmarried person with average life expectancy, filing at 62 would be roughly as good as filing at 70 (or any age in between).

You are a male, so that pushes you slightly in favor of filing earlier. Life expectancies have increased somewhat, so that pushes things slightly in favor of filing later. And real interest rates are currently somewhat lower than those baked into the system, which pushes things slightly in favor of filing later.

So, given those inputs, the option that maximizes expected value is for you to wait some of the way, but not all the way, until 70. If you test filing at age 70, you'll see that the difference is slim (about 1.7% change in expected PV).
Thanks for the info. There are still good reasons for me to wait until I am 70 to file, but now I understand that it may not provided maximum return. The reason to wait is the insurance that SS provideds. It is safer than any other investment I could make. It is a better deal, and more secure, than any annuity I could buy.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by tc101 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am

Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:53 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
I can't tell if this is rhetorical, and you just wanted to say your piece, or whether you actually want an explanation for why it is useful for most people.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by One Ping » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:00 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
That may be true, but for the part that it does provide an answer for, it's the most reasonable approach I've seen yet.

I'm not sure how one would build a relatively simple calculator to quantitatively answer the general question of trading longevity insurance vs. maximizing benefits? It's a complex problem and there are a lot of subjective factors specific to the individual involved in making the trade-off between the two considerations.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Leif » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:21 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
I believe what it calculates in a major part of the consideration of when to start SS. However, individual factors may come into play. It certainly gives importance guidance on a question many, if not most people, get wrong.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by tc101 » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:39 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:53 am
tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
I can't tell if this is rhetorical, and you just wanted to say your piece, or whether you actually want an explanation for why it is useful for most people.
Both are true. I did want to say my piece, but I would also like to read your explanation about why it is useful for most people.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:56 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:39 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:53 am
tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
I can't tell if this is rhetorical, and you just wanted to say your piece, or whether you actually want an explanation for why it is useful for most people.
Both are true. I did want to say my piece, but I would also like to read your explanation about why it is useful for most people.
Most people, even if they're eligible for a restricted application, have no idea about it -- even though we've been discussing the concept here for the last several years.

Most people don't know that it's more advantageous for the higher earner in a couple to wait than for a single person to wait. Nor do they know that it's more advantageous for a single person to wait than for a lower earner to wait. And therefore they also don't know that it's far more advantageous for the higher earner in a couple to wait than for the lower earner.

That's why you see couples where both people file at the same (non-62, non-70) age, although that rarely makes sense -- or both filing around FRA, even though that also rarely makes sense for a couple.

Most people aren't really aware of the role that interest rates play in the analysis.

Most people don't know how to adjust the typical advice to account for the presence of a government pension, if applicable.

Most people aren't aware of the fact that the biggest factor in the husband's claiming decision might be the wife's health (and vice versa).

There are other, similar points to be made. But the overall point is that most people aren't Bogleheads. Most people would benefit from some help with this decision.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Austintatious » Fri Aug 10, 2018 2:57 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:56 am
tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:39 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:53 am
tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
I can't tell if this is rhetorical, and you just wanted to say your piece, or whether you actually want an explanation for why it is useful for most people.
Both are true. I did want to say my piece, but I would also like to read your explanation about why it is useful for most people.
Most people, even if they're eligible for a restricted application, have no idea about it -- even though we've been discussing the concept here for the last several years.

Most people don't know that it's more advantageous for the higher earner in a couple to wait than for a single person to wait. Nor do they know that it's more advantageous for a single person to wait than for a lower earner to wait. And therefore they also don't know that it's far more advantageous for the higher earner in a couple to wait than for the lower earner.

That's why you see couples where both people file at the same (non-62, non-70) age, although that rarely makes sense -- or both filing around FRA, even though that also rarely makes sense for a couple.

Most people aren't really aware of the role that interest rates play in the analysis.

Most people don't know how to adjust the typical advice to account for the presence of a government pension, if applicable.

Most people aren't aware of the fact that the biggest factor in the husband's claiming decision might be the wife's health (and vice versa).

There are other, similar points to be made. But the overall point is that most people aren't Bogleheads. Most people would benefit from some help with this decision.
Clearly, having access to the Open Social Security calculator will be immensely helpful for "most people" and that probably includes most Bogleheads. Thank you, Mike Piper, for a valuable public service.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Keith_Simons » Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:44 pm

Does your calculator correctly project the amounts which should be seen as spousal benefit, if there has been a voluntary suspension at FRA by the older earner, who was also the lower earner, and took their benefits fully four years earlier than FRA?

I am looking here not merely at the output of your calculator but also at the output from the SSA's calculator intended to address the simpler case. Accompanying statements on the SSA site state that while there can be a boost to the voluntary suspender's benefit, that the spousal benefit is not increased, even if the benefit on their own earnings record increases.

I had interpreted that to mean that the proportion of higher earners PIA that the spouse might claim was fixed, in this instance at a ratio close to 35.2% of the higher earner's PIA. Thus, the amount of spousal benefit, in total dollars, would shrink, while the part attributed to the lower, older earners earnings history, would be reset at the new, higher level. But, that there would be no overall increase in their overall benefit.

Your calculator gives a different answer to this scenario, one in which there is a real boost to overall benefit amount - which is closer to the truth?

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 6:35 am

Keith_Simons wrote:
Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:44 pm
Does your calculator correctly project the amounts which should be seen as spousal benefit, if there has been a voluntary suspension at FRA by the older earner, who was also the lower earner, and took their benefits fully four years earlier than FRA?

I am looking here not merely at the output of your calculator but also at the output from the SSA's calculator intended to address the simpler case. Accompanying statements on the SSA site state that while there can be a boost to the voluntary suspender's benefit, that the spousal benefit is not increased, even if the benefit on their own earnings record increases.

I had interpreted that to mean that the proportion of higher earners PIA that the spouse might claim was fixed, in this instance at a ratio close to 35.2% of the higher earner's PIA. Thus, the amount of spousal benefit, in total dollars, would shrink, while the part attributed to the lower, older earners earnings history, would be reset at the new, higher level. But, that there would be no overall increase in their overall benefit.

Your calculator gives a different answer to this scenario, one in which there is a real boost to overall benefit amount - which is closer to the truth?
I'm having a hard time following your question without more specific information (i.e., actual dates and PIAs).

A spousal benefit is calculated as:

50% of the other person's PIA, minus the greater of your own PIA or your own retirement benefit. (If this amount is below zero, you get no spousal benefit rather than a negative spousal benefit.)

In the event that a spousal benefit is claimed prior to FRA, the above calculation is multiplied by a reduction factor. Specifically, the reduction is 25/36 of 1% for each month early, up to 36 months. For each month in excess of 36 months, the reduction is 5/12 of 1%.

And that spousal benefit is added to your own retirement benefit to arrive at your total monthly benefit.

(Edited for clarity.)
Last edited by ObliviousInvestor on Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:24 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by JoeRetire » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:11 am

tc101 wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:46 am
Given the factors I mentioned in the last post, I wonder how useful this calculator is? It might lead to more confusion than clarity for most people, and might lead to some people taking SS earlier than would be best for them. What it calculates is just one minor part of the info to be considered when deciding to take SS.
The same is true for any calculator.

If you don't understand what the tool is doing, what is being included and what is not, then you may be better off talking with a professional than simply using a tool.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Watty » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:35 am

A minor suggestion. In the drop down boxes where you select the month you list 1,2,3, etc. If they were listed as 1-Jan. , 2-Feb. 3-March, etc. That would make data entry mistakes less likely.

After seeing the first Recommended Strategy, and an alternative, I tried changing the discount rate and when I pressed submit it did not update the preset value of the proposed solution.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:45 am

Watty wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:35 am
A minor suggestion. In the drop down boxes where you select the month you list 1,2,3, etc. If they were listed as 1-Jan. , 2-Feb. 3-March, etc. That would make data entry mistakes less likely.
Thank you for this suggestion. I would appreciate it if anybody else reading this thread could weigh in -- agree or disagree?
Watty wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:35 am
After seeing the first Recommended Strategy, and an alternative, I tried changing the discount rate and when I pressed submit it did not update the preset value of the proposed solution.
Yes. For the proposed solution to be updated, you have to click the first "submit" button rather than the second one. The first button is the one that runs all the various possible options, whereas the second just runs one single PV calc with the dates you selected.

On the one hand, I understand that this might not be what some users would intuitively expect. On the other hand, running the first function (that tries all the possibilities) every time the second button is clicked would dramatically worsen performance. Depending on the user's computer and browser, the first function can take several seconds -- or even up to a minute, whereas the second function is only doing 1/96th as much math, so it can run much more quickly.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Watty » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:52 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:45 am
Yes. For the proposed solution to be updated, you have to click the first "submit" button rather than the second one. The first button is the one that runs all the various possible options, whereas the second just runs one single PV calc with the dates you selected.
It was the first button that I pressed.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:02 am

Watty wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:52 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:45 am
Yes. For the proposed solution to be updated, you have to click the first "submit" button rather than the second one. The first button is the one that runs all the various possible options, whereas the second just runs one single PV calc with the dates you selected.
It was the first button that I pressed.
Hmm. I suspect we're having a miscommunication here.

Are you saying the following?
1) You ran the calculator (first button).
2) You tried an alternative-date strategy (entered dates, clicked second button).
3) Then you changed the discount rate and clicked the first button again.
4) The output for the recommended strategy's PV was not changed.

If so, that would be quite a surprise given how the calculator is coded. Can anybody else confirm similar behavior?
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Watty » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:29 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:02 am
Watty wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:52 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:45 am
Yes. For the proposed solution to be updated, you have to click the first "submit" button rather than the second one. The first button is the one that runs all the various possible options, whereas the second just runs one single PV calc with the dates you selected.
It was the first button that I pressed.
Hmm. I suspect we're having a miscommunication here.

Are you saying the following?
1) You ran the calculator (first button).
2) You tried an alternative-date strategy (entered dates, clicked second button).
3) Then you changed the discount rate and clicked the first button again.
4) The output for the recommended strategy's PV was not changed.

If so, that would be quite a surprise given how the calculator is coded. Can anybody else confirm similar behavior?
That is correct.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:39 am

Watty wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:29 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:02 am
Watty wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:52 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:45 am
Yes. For the proposed solution to be updated, you have to click the first "submit" button rather than the second one. The first button is the one that runs all the various possible options, whereas the second just runs one single PV calc with the dates you selected.
It was the first button that I pressed.
Hmm. I suspect we're having a miscommunication here.

Are you saying the following?
1) You ran the calculator (first button).
2) You tried an alternative-date strategy (entered dates, clicked second button).
3) Then you changed the discount rate and clicked the first button again.
4) The output for the recommended strategy's PV was not changed.

If so, that would be quite a surprise given how the calculator is coded. Can anybody else confirm similar behavior?
That is correct.
:shock:
This is indeed quite a surprise. I am so far unable to replicate such behavior. Could you perhaps provide the inputs you used?
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by Austintatious » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:51 am

Mike, while it may seem obvious to most that the tool does not and cannot consider every factor unique to a user's situation, factors that the user should or at least might want to consider in deciding how and when to apply, it's just not going to be so obvious to everyone. There is an explanation on the website's "About" page that tells the user what the tool does and, just as importantly, a reminder that there are factors it does consider. Here's the text:
Open Social Security is a free, basic, open-source Social Security strategy calculator.

The calculator runs the math for each possible claiming age (or, if you're married, each possible combination of claiming ages) and reports back, telling you which strategy is expected to provide the most total spendable dollars over your lifetime. Please note that the calculator does not account for the fact that delaying benefits reduces longevity risk and therefore may be preferable even in some cases in which it is not the strategy that maximizes expected total spending.

Also, Open Social Security does not currently account for all the various circumstances that a real-life person/couple might face. For instance, it does not currently account for:

Child benefits (or spousal benefits for people younger than age 62 with a child in care),
Disability benefits, or
Tax planning reasons or other unrelated reasons why it might be better for you to file earlier or later than the calculator suggests.
I intend to add functionality to account for some of the above things, but it will take time. In the meantime, to learn more about Social Security, you may want to read my book: Social Security Made Simple.
But I don't see anything like that within or adjacent to the tool itself, so that one could pop in and use the tool without ever being reminded that the tool does not have a crystal ball capable of knowing all the factors relevant to their claiming decision. Consider some kind of language within or immediately adjacent to the tool itself, something that either directs them to that text on the "About" page or otherwise reminds them that the tool, as capable and helpful as it is, is necessarily limited in its possibilities and that only they can know all the factors relevant to their final decision. Hope I'm making myself clear.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by KarenC » Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:52 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:02 am
Hmm. I suspect we're having a miscommunication here.

Are you saying the following?
1) You ran the calculator (first button).
2) You tried an alternative-date strategy (entered dates, clicked second button).
3) Then you changed the discount rate and clicked the first button again.
4) The output for the recommended strategy's PV was not changed.

If so, that would be quite a surprise given how the calculator is coded. Can anybody else confirm similar behavior?
I just gave it a spin and I was unable to reproduce this behavior. The present value for the alternate claiming strategy, however, did not update, which leads to a confusing output. (I have a screenshot illustrating this, but I’m not able to include it here.j
"How much you know is less important than how clearly you understand where the borders of your ignorance begin." — Jason Zweig

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:07 am

KarenC wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:52 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:02 am
Hmm. I suspect we're having a miscommunication here.

Are you saying the following?
1) You ran the calculator (first button).
2) You tried an alternative-date strategy (entered dates, clicked second button).
3) Then you changed the discount rate and clicked the first button again.
4) The output for the recommended strategy's PV was not changed.

If so, that would be quite a surprise given how the calculator is coded. Can anybody else confirm similar behavior?
I just gave it a spin and I was unable to reproduce this behavior. The present value for the alternate claiming strategy, however, did not update, which leads to a confusing output. (I have a screenshot illustrating this, but I’m not able to include it here.j
Thanks, Karen. This is the behavior that I had expected (i.e., it's what's intended, at the moment).

I agree it's confusing when switching back and forth between the two. Right now, the PV for the alternative strategy is only updated upon hitting the second button.

I could change it so that the alternative-date PV gets updated if a person runs the first function again. I had worried that that might feel unintuitive also though (i.e., they didn't change anything in the bottom section of the screen, yet the figures down there are changing). If consensus is that that would be a better approach though, then I could definitely do that.

In short, I'm not sure what the user experience should be, when a person wants to go back and forth, changing both the inputs above (e.g., discount rate or mortality table) as well as the inputs below. The way the calculator is currently coded was my best guess for the most intuitive behavior, but I'm open to input here.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:13 am

Austintatious wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:51 am
Mike, while it may seem obvious to most that the tool does not and cannot consider every factor unique to a user's situation, factors that the user should or at least might want to consider in deciding how and when to apply, it's just not going to be so obvious to everyone. There is an explanation on the website's "About" page that tells the user what the tool does and, just as importantly, a reminder that there are factors it does consider. Here's the text:
Open Social Security is a free, basic, open-source Social Security strategy calculator.

The calculator runs the math for each possible claiming age (or, if you're married, each possible combination of claiming ages) and reports back, telling you which strategy is expected to provide the most total spendable dollars over your lifetime. Please note that the calculator does not account for the fact that delaying benefits reduces longevity risk and therefore may be preferable even in some cases in which it is not the strategy that maximizes expected total spending.

Also, Open Social Security does not currently account for all the various circumstances that a real-life person/couple might face. For instance, it does not currently account for:

Child benefits (or spousal benefits for people younger than age 62 with a child in care),
Disability benefits, or
Tax planning reasons or other unrelated reasons why it might be better for you to file earlier or later than the calculator suggests.
I intend to add functionality to account for some of the above things, but it will take time. In the meantime, to learn more about Social Security, you may want to read my book: Social Security Made Simple.
But I don't see anything like that within or adjacent to the tool itself, so that one could pop in and use the tool without ever being reminded that the tool does not have a crystal ball capable of knowing all the factors relevant to their claiming decision. Consider some kind of language within or immediately adjacent to the tool itself, something that either directs them to that text on the "About" page or otherwise reminds them that the tool, as capable and helpful as it is, is necessarily limited in its possibilities and that only they can know all the factors relevant to their final decision. Hope I'm making myself clear.
Thank you for this. It has become clear (via posts here as well as emails) that most people don't click over to the "about" page (even in some cases if they have questions about how the calculator works). I've considered renaming the navigation link to "FAQ" (and reworking that page so it's in an FAQ format) in the hope that doing so would get more people to click over and read that page.

One thing I am hesitant to do is put much more material on the main page itself. On the one hand, I understand that more information is useful, especially to people who have questions.

On the other hand, my concern is that the more material there is on that page, the more overwhelming it is to a new user -- potentially putting people off from trying it at all.

(And, at least at some point, the calculator is going to require a few additional inputs, asking whether the user is disabled and whether they have any minor children or adult disabled children. In other words, it already must get at least a little more complicated, so that makes me hesitant about including even more things, if they might not be 100% necessary. But again, I'm open to hear what the consensus view is here.)

Edited to add: Another separate but related concern about putting more material on the main page is that I worry it eventually reaches a point where people don't even read what is there. It's common for people to miss the "advanced options" checkbox. And I've already had several people email to ask what a PIA is, even though it says it right on the page -- right below the input asking for their PIA. I worry that more content would make this sort of thing even more common as people switch into "scan" mode rather than "actual reading" mode.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by zeugmite » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:01 am

Just want to hop in and say this is one of the best tools I've seen on this topic.
ObliviousInvestor wrote:Most people, even if they're eligible for a restricted application, have no idea about it -- even though we've been discussing the concept here for the last several years.

Most people don't know that it's more advantageous for the higher earner in a couple to wait than for a single person to wait. Nor do they know that it's more advantageous for a single person to wait than for a lower earner to wait. And therefore they also don't know that it's far more advantageous for the higher earner in a couple to wait than for the lower earner.
This was in fact one of the most surprising results from the calculator wrt restricted applications, that you might want to take a permanently lower benefit from the lower, younger earner almost as early as possible to unlock the spousal benefit for the higher, older earner, since you'll get the the max from the latter sooner and since the tail end is covered by the latter's survivor benefit. Not only is this the higher-NPV option than any option where both wait till 70 with the younger taking spousal benefit before 70, it is also lower-risk and the payouts distributed more evenly. If I had known this calculator last year some plans might have been different.

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by tfb » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:46 am

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:07 am
In short, I'm not sure what the user experience should be, when a person wants to go back and forth, changing both the inputs above (e.g., discount rate or mortality table) as well as the inputs below. The way the calculator is currently coded was my best guess for the most intuitive behavior, but I'm open to input here.
I would say either (A) wipe out the outputs for the alternative strategy whenever the inputs for the recommended strategy change; or (B) re-calculate the alternative using the new inputs. (A) would force the user to re-enter the alternative dates. When the recommended strategy changes, the user may want to test a different alternative. (B) would treat the alternative claiming dates as optional primary inputs and basically turn two buttons into just one button.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by KarenC » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:10 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:07 am
KarenC wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:52 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 8:02 am
Hmm. I suspect we're having a miscommunication here.

Are you saying the following?
1) You ran the calculator (first button).
2) You tried an alternative-date strategy (entered dates, clicked second button).
3) Then you changed the discount rate and clicked the first button again.
4) The output for the recommended strategy's PV was not changed.

If so, that would be quite a surprise given how the calculator is coded. Can anybody else confirm similar behavior?
I just gave it a spin and I was unable to reproduce this behavior. The present value for the alternate claiming strategy, however, did not update, which leads to a confusing output. (I have a screenshot illustrating this, but I’m not able to include it here.j
Thanks, Karen. This is the behavior that I had expected (i.e., it's what's intended, at the moment).

I agree it's confusing when switching back and forth between the two. Right now, the PV for the alternative strategy is only updated upon hitting the second button.

I could change it so that the alternative-date PV gets updated if a person runs the first function again. I had worried that that might feel unintuitive also though (i.e., they didn't change anything in the bottom section of the screen, yet the figures down there are changing). If consensus is that that would be a better approach though, then I could definitely do that.

In short, I'm not sure what the user experience should be, when a person wants to go back and forth, changing both the inputs above (e.g., discount rate or mortality table) as well as the inputs below. The way the calculator is currently coded was my best guess for the most intuitive behavior, but I'm open to input here.
The problem is that some of the numbers at the bottom are changing and others are not. In particular, the value of the difference between the two strategies looks absurd if you don’t know what’s going on.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:34 pm

KarenC wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:10 pm
The problem is that some of the numbers at the bottom are changing and others are not. In particular, the value of the difference between the two strategies looks absurd if you don’t know what’s going on.
In my mind, that obvious discrepancy was the clue that would lead a person to realize they needed to recalculate the original figure. I can appreciate that I likely made a poor decision here with regard to user experience though. Thank you (and everybody else) for the feedback. :)
tfb wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:46 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:07 am
In short, I'm not sure what the user experience should be, when a person wants to go back and forth, changing both the inputs above (e.g., discount rate or mortality table) as well as the inputs below. The way the calculator is currently coded was my best guess for the most intuitive behavior, but I'm open to input here.
I would say either (A) wipe out the outputs for the alternative strategy whenever the inputs for the recommended strategy change; or (B) re-calculate the alternative using the new inputs. (A) would force the user to re-enter the alternative dates. When the recommended strategy changes, the user may want to test a different alternative. (B) would treat the alternative claiming dates as optional primary inputs and basically turn two buttons into just one button.
Hmm. I'm leaning toward option A here -- probably with a message indicating why the output in question has disappeared.

My concern with option B (doing all the math, every time) is again the processing time. Doing a single PV calc based on one set of dates takes a small fraction of a second. Doing 96x96 PV calcs can take a while if the user has an older computer (or is on a mobile device), especially if they're using IE/Edge/Safari. And if the only thing they changed was the alternative-date inputs, only one PV calc was actually necessary.
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:48 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:13 am
Thank you for this. It has become clear (via posts here as well as emails) that most people don't click over to the "about" page (even in some cases if they have questions about how the calculator works). I've considered renaming the navigation link to "FAQ" (and reworking that page so it's in an FAQ format) in the hope that doing so would get more people to click over and read that page.

One thing I am hesitant to do is put much more material on the main page itself. On the one hand, I understand that more information is useful, especially to people who have questions.

On the other hand, my concern is that the more material there is on that page, the more overwhelming it is to a new user -- potentially putting people off from trying it at all.

(And, at least at some point, the calculator is going to require a few additional inputs, asking whether the user is disabled and whether they have any minor children or adult disabled children. In other words, it already must get at least a little more complicated, so that makes me hesitant about including even more things, if they might not be 100% necessary. But again, I'm open to hear what the consensus view is here.)

Edited to add: Another separate but related concern about putting more material on the main page is that I worry it eventually reaches a point where people don't even read what is there. It's common for people to miss the "advanced options" checkbox. And I've already had several people email to ask what a PIA is, even though it says it right on the page -- right below the input asking for their PIA. I worry that more content would make this sort of thing even more common as people switch into "scan" mode rather than "actual reading" mode.
I know the feeling, as it took more than a few years for readers to find the Bogleheads' wiki - in spite of prominent links on the site home page and forum header menus.

Readers have different display devices and perceive content differently.

Suggestion: Be very aggressive to insert links on any term that's related to Social Security. Not just one time, but everywhere the term is mentioned (within reason). The link can be either a pop-up a box with the explanation or open a new window. Be sure to accommodate both desktop and mobile users. An example of an inline link (but nothing special about it).
Your "primary insurance amount" (PIA) is the amount of your monthly retirement benefit, if you file for it at your full retirement age.
This isn't a fix, but just to know that you've done the best you can. If someone missed the first link, they might find the second one.

Alternative suggestion: Create a pop-up explanation when the words have mouse focus ("hover" over the link).
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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:50 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:34 pm
KarenC wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:10 pm
The problem is that some of the numbers at the bottom are changing and others are not. In particular, the value of the difference between the two strategies looks absurd if you don’t know what’s going on.
In my mind, that obvious discrepancy was the clue that would lead a person to realize they needed to recalculate the original figure. I can appreciate that I likely made a poor decision here with regard to user experience though. Thank you (and everybody else) for the feedback. :)
tfb wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:46 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:07 am
In short, I'm not sure what the user experience should be, when a person wants to go back and forth, changing both the inputs above (e.g., discount rate or mortality table) as well as the inputs below. The way the calculator is currently coded was my best guess for the most intuitive behavior, but I'm open to input here.
I would say either (A) wipe out the outputs for the alternative strategy whenever the inputs for the recommended strategy change; or (B) re-calculate the alternative using the new inputs. (A) would force the user to re-enter the alternative dates. When the recommended strategy changes, the user may want to test a different alternative. (B) would treat the alternative claiming dates as optional primary inputs and basically turn two buttons into just one button.
Hmm. I'm leaning toward option A here -- probably with a message indicating why the output in question has disappeared.

My concern with option B (doing all the math, every time) is again the processing time. Doing a single PV calc based on one set of dates takes a small fraction of a second. Doing 96x96 PV calcs can take a while if the user has an older computer (or is on a mobile device), especially if they're using IE/Edge/Safari. And if the only thing they changed was the alternative-date inputs, only one PV calc was actually necessary.
Alternatively, go with Option B, but using a true/false variable that controls whether all the math actually needs to be done. (That is, the variable is set to true if the user changes the inputs on the original form, in which case either submit button would cause all of the math to be done again. But if the variable is currently false -- because no inputs other than claiming dates have changed -- it just does the PV calc for the claiming dates in question.)

This feels like the right way to go -- kind of obvious in hindsight. Thanks everybody for the nudges required. Hopefully I can make this happen reasonably quickly.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Post by ObliviousInvestor » Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:57 pm

LadyGeek wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:48 pm
Readers have different display devices and perceive content differently.
This is a good point -- and something I have to remind myself of constantly.
LadyGeek wrote:
Mon Aug 13, 2018 12:48 pm
Suggestion: Be very aggressive to insert links on any term that's related to Social Security. Not just one time, but everywhere the term is mentioned (within reason). The link can be either a pop-up a box with the explanation or open a new window. Be sure to accommodate both desktop and mobile users. An example of an inline link (but nothing special about it).
Your "primary insurance amount" (PIA) is the amount of your monthly retirement benefit, if you file for it at your full retirement age.
This isn't a fix, but just to know that you've done the best you can. If someone missed the first link, they might find the second one.

Alternative suggestion: Create a pop-up explanation when the words have mouse focus ("hover" over the link).
Thank you for the suggestions. Providing information/definitions in more than one place is likely a good idea, especially if it can be kept out of the way at first (as would be the case via "hover" information) so as to avoid clutter.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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