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

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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ObliviousInvestor
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

jmk wrote:
Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:24 pm
It might just be me, but is anyone else confused by the figures in the generated "Year-by-Year Benefit Amounts" table?

After reading the background info carefully I'm thinking these figures represent future real dollars anchored the year you'd turn 62, or perhaps the year you start getting benefits. In other words, not in current dollars. But this is never stated outright. I'm wondering if it would help to add a simple sentence to the explanation above the table explaining what year anchors the figures?
The table and the PV calculation are completely separate.

In the PV calculation, future dollars must be discounted. (And they are probability-weighted as well.)

For ease of understanding, the table simply reports current year dollars -- not discounted and not probability-weighted. Otherwise, for example, a person's retirement benefit would be shown as a slightly smaller amount each year than the previous year, which I suspect would confuse many people.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 6:37 am
jmk wrote:
Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:24 pm
It might just be me, but is anyone else confused by the figures in the generated "Year-by-Year Benefit Amounts" table?
For ease of understanding, the table simply reports current year dollars -- not discounted and not probability-weighted. Otherwise, for example, a person's retirement benefit would be shown as a slightly smaller amount each year than the previous year, which I suspect would confuse many people.
Which totally makes sense. My suggestion is to add a short sentence that makes that clear, e.g. "Figures are in current dollars."

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

jmk wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:37 pm
My suggestion is to add a short sentence that makes that clear, e.g. "Figures are in current dollars."
Noted. Thank you.

After the current big piece of functionality is finished, there's a laundry list of things I intend to improve as far as documentation/interface.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Mike, would you explain in simple terms, maybe give some examples, of the difference between solving for max PV vs solving for longevity risk? What are some examples where choosing the recommended strategy (ie largest PV) would not get you the best in terms of longevity? Much of this discussion is over my head and I don't need to understand on such a deep level. Just need to know how to think about what your calculator is telling me vs wanting the best solution for longevity risk. FWIW, I am 63 and my spouse is almost 66. Your calculator says our best strategy is for her to file at 67 and for me to wait until 70. I am the higher earner. We also tried her filing at 66 and me at 70. The PV difference is only \$580 less. But her annual payment would be almost \$1000 less. Are one or both of those factors why the best strategy is for her to wait a year until age 67? Thanks.

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

capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:27 pm
Mike, would you explain in simple terms, maybe give some examples, of the difference between solving for max PV vs solving for longevity risk? What are some examples where choosing the recommended strategy (ie largest PV) would not get you the best in terms of longevity? Much of this discussion is over my head and I don't need to understand on such a deep level. Just need to know how to think about what your calculator is telling me vs wanting the best solution for longevity risk.
There is no such thing as "solving for longevity risk" per se. Longevity risk is the risk of living a very long time. And there's no real end-cap on it, if we aren't considering probabilities.

In other words, with respect to minimizing longevity risk, the optimal solution is always for each person to max out their benefit fully (i.e., waiting until 70 to file for retirement, or waiting until FRA to file for spousal). Because in a live-a-super-duper-long-time scenario, the highest benefit works out best (because you'd be collecting it for such a long time).

A probability-weighted PV calculation (such as that done by this calculator) considers the probability of living for such a long time. So, for example, the "both spouses live until 110" scenario is included, but it gets very little weight in the calculation, because it's so unlikely.
capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:27 pm
FWIW, I am 63 and my spouse is almost 66. Your calculator says our best strategy is for her to file at 67 and for me to wait until 70. I am the higher earner. We also tried her filing at 66 and me at 70. The PV difference is only \$580 less. But her annual payment would be almost \$1000 less. Are one or both of those factors why the best strategy is for her to wait a year until age 67? Thanks.
The decision for the lower earner typically isn't nearly as impactful as the decision for the higher earner. The reason it's saying for her to wait until 67 is simply, "because that's what happens to give the highest probability-weighted present value." But as you noticed, varying her filing age doesn't make a dramatic difference. (That is, the higher benefit at 67 is almost offset by the fact that it would be collected for slightly fewer months.)
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:27 pm
FWIW, I am 63 and my spouse is almost 66. Your calculator says our best strategy is for her to file at 67 and for me to wait until 70. I am the higher earner. We also tried her filing at 66 and me at 70. The PV difference is only \$580 less. But her annual payment would be almost \$1000 less. Are one or both of those factors why the best strategy is for her to wait a year until age 67? Thanks.
The decision for the lower earner typically isn't nearly as impactful as the decision for the higher earner. The reason it's saying for her to wait until 67 is simply, "because that's what happens to give the highest probability-weighted present value." But as you noticed, varying her filing age doesn't make a dramatic difference. (That is, the higher benefit at 67 is almost offset by the fact that it would be collected for slightly fewer months.)
[/quote]

Thanks. Don't know if I replied properly, including only the final quote. Anyway, your response is helpful. But it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy. Her claiming amount at 67 with the best strategy is only \$12,800 per year so losing \$1000 every year for claiming one year early seems like it should be quite significant.....

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

capemaydiamond wrote:it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy. Her claiming amount at 67 with the best strategy is only \$12,800 per year so losing \$1000 every year for claiming one year early seems like it should be quite significant
As the spouse with the lower PIA, when she delays benefits it increases the amount that you will receive (as a couple) as long as both of you are still alive. This first-to-die joint life expectancy is shorter than many people intuitively expect, because most people think in terms of individual life expectancies -- but this expected length of time is (in most cases) significantly shorter than the shorter of the two individual life expectancies.

(Overall point being again that, in this case, the higher/lower benefit from your wife delaying or not delaying another year is approximately offset by the difference in number of months for which that benefit will be received.)
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:06 pm
But it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy.
In addition to what ObliviousInvestor explained, there are also other factors at work here... The calculator assumes that by claiming one year earlier, you didn't spend down about \$12k of your retirement savings. The calculator assumes that \$12k is invested and growing.

--vtMaps
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true. --James Branch Cabell

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

vtMaps wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:20 am
capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:06 pm
But it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy.
In addition to what ObliviousInvestor explained, there are also other factors at work here... The calculator assumes that by claiming one year earlier, you didn't spend down about \$12k of your retirement savings. The calculator assumes that \$12k is invested and growing.

--vtMaps
The calculator factors in the growth of unspent investments because one is collecting that amount in social security?

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

capemaydiamond wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:30 am
vtMaps wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:20 am
capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:06 pm
But it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy.
In addition to what ObliviousInvestor explained, there are also other factors at work here... The calculator assumes that by claiming one year earlier, you didn't spend down about \$12k of your retirement savings. The calculator assumes that \$12k is invested and growing.

--vtMaps
The calculator factors in the growth of unspent investments because one is collecting that amount in social security?
Yes, that is what any Social Security present value calculation is doing.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

Carl53
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:43 am
capemaydiamond wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:30 am
vtMaps wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:20 am
capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:06 pm
But it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy.
In addition to what ObliviousInvestor explained, there are also other factors at work here... The calculator assumes that by claiming one year earlier, you didn't spend down about \$12k of your retirement savings. The calculator assumes that \$12k is invested and growing.

--vtMaps
The calculator factors in the growth of unspent investments because one is collecting that amount in social security?
Yes, that is what any Social Security present value calculation is doing.
Think about this scenario, where spouse might take own benefit at 66 or 67, of \$12500 or \$13500, for possibly 7 or 6 years if capemaydiamond has high enough earnings such that the spouse might switch to spousal benefits at that time. If they have no need of the additional income and as such are not spending down additional retirement funds the spouse would receive \$87500 or \$81000, with the \$81000 being delayed a year in starting, prior to the switch. It seems hard to understand how the later smaller benefit would be better by \$500 PV or by any amount. Of course capemaydiamond might not have that high of benefit, just larger than the spouse, such that the spouse will never switch to spousal benefits. In that case I could see that what capemaydiamond is stating might happen.

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

Carl53 wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 8:26 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:43 am
capemaydiamond wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:30 am
vtMaps wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 4:20 am
capemaydiamond wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:06 pm
But it is difficult to grasp that my spouse claiming 1 year earlier, and an amount that is \$1000 less, would only result in a \$500 reduction in the PV as compared to the best strategy.
In addition to what ObliviousInvestor explained, there are also other factors at work here... The calculator assumes that by claiming one year earlier, you didn't spend down about \$12k of your retirement savings. The calculator assumes that \$12k is invested and growing.

--vtMaps
The calculator factors in the growth of unspent investments because one is collecting that amount in social security?
Yes, that is what any Social Security present value calculation is doing.
Think about this scenario, where spouse might take own benefit at 66 or 67, of \$12500 or \$13500, for possibly 7 or 6 years if capemaydiamond has high enough earnings such that the spouse might switch to spousal benefits at that time. If they have no need of the additional income and as such are not spending down additional retirement funds the spouse would receive \$87500 or \$81000, with the \$81000 being delayed a year in starting, prior to the switch. It seems hard to understand how the later smaller benefit would be better by \$500 PV or by any amount. Of course capemaydiamond might not have that high of benefit, just larger than the spouse, such that the spouse will never switch to spousal benefits. In that case I could see that what capemaydiamond is stating might happen.
Unfortunately my benefit is not more than double that of my spouse's, so a spousal benefit isn't viable for us.....

Carl53
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

I just reran our open social security scenario. Both of our birthdays are the same month but lower earning spouse is on the 2nd and i'm midmonth four years older. OSS recommends spouse filing for benefits in birth month with me taking restricted spousal in the same month. It recommends later me taking my own benefit at 70 with my spouse switching to spousal at that time. I totally agree with this determination.

I do question one of the numbers in the table of annual benefits. The spouse in the first year is shown receiving own benefits for (12-(birth month number))*reduced age 62 monthly benefit. That is what I expected for someone with a birthday on the 2nd. For me, not reaching 66 until mid-month, I see in the first year a likewise total: (12-(birth month number))* .5*spouses PIA. My prior understanding was that I would not be able to collect a benefit as a restricted spouse at FRA until the first full month that I was FRA, i.e. the birth number + 1 month. So I was thinking that my total for the first year would have been one month's less than shown by OSS or (12-(bmn+1))*.5 spouses PIA.

Does this have something to do with the dates of our birthdays? We were planning to have my spouse file for own benefits a few months prior to birthdate and then me file for my restricted spousal benefits a few days later with the expectation that my first benefits would not be received until a month after my spouse's first benefit.

Is my understanding messed up?

You Know What I Mean
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Yes, I think there is some confusion. You will be entitled to a full month of spousal benefit for the first month you reach FRA, even though your birthday is mid-month. However, the benefit for that month will actually be received the following month (Social Security benefits are paid in arrears.) Perhaps that is the source of the confusion.

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

You Know What I Mean wrote:
Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:46 am
You will be entitled to a full month of spousal benefit for the first month you reach FRA, even though your birthday is mid-month.

The "must be the age in question for the entire month" rule is only applicable at age 62. It only has to do with being eligible for a retirement or spousal benefit in the first place. The deemed filing rules include no such "for the entire month" provision.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

First, let me thank you for such a great tool! Spent a good part of today running various scenarios and updating my planning worksheets. Results were slightly different then earlier runs with SSAnalyzer but seems consistent within its own runs. In addition the results highlighted an error in my earlier calculations of spousal benefit.

Wondering if it’s possible to get a deeper exposure to the PV calculations. Is there a way of dumping some type of table for the scenarios involved?

In my case SSAnalyzer suggested my wife wait to her FRA and suggested I delay to 70. Open Social Security recommended she take SS at 62 and for me to delay to 70. There was a relatively small difference in PV (\$9,000 I think). Would love to get a better understanding of the underlying assumptions.

My assumption is that it relates to the using the mortality tables to weight future income streams.....

Thanks for the hard work and analysis! It’s a really helpful tool.

WoodSpinner

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

WoodSpinner wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 10:40 pm
Wondering if it’s possible to get a deeper exposure to the PV calculations. Is there a way of dumping some type of table for the scenarios involved?
That's on the to-do list. Can't promise when though.

In the meantime, I can describe what the calculator is doing in each PV calc for a married couple (i.e., in the calculation of expected PV that is done for each set of claiming dates). You can look at the code as well of course.

Each year, it calculates the probability of:
1) Both PersonA and PersonB alive,
2) Only PersonA alive,
3) Only PersonB alive,
4) Neither PersonA nor PersonB alive.

Then it calculates what the family's total benefit would be in each of those four situations. And it probability-weights each of those four benefits to arrive at a probability-weighted benefit for the year. Then it discounts that amount.

As far as the mortality calculations, the calculator is doing the same math that #Cruncher does in his "Odds of Being Alive" spreadsheet, which you can find here:
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Only other suggestion is more from a Usabiluty perspective when using the Advanced Settimgs for married couples.

The selection and verbiage around the mortality table for the primary is not nearly as clear as fir the spouse. Minor nit, but would help.

Again, greaat tool! Definitely labor of love!

Would you like a donation to help with the costs? Have a favorite charity?

WoodSpinner

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

WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:44 am
Only other suggestion is more from a Usability perspective when using the Advanced Settings for married couples.

The selection and verbiage around the mortality table for the primary is not nearly as clear as fir the spouse. Minor nit, but would help.
I'm not sure what you mean here. Would you mind elaborating?

The dropdown and the label for the dropdown (i.e., the bold wording "Mortality table") are coded to be identical for you/your spouse. Are you referring to something else? Or are they actually showing differently in your browser? (And if so, would you mind sharing what browser and OS you're using?)
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Hi. I've run this a few times and in 11/2018 my spouse's best time to retire was at 66 yrs 9 months, on 12/6/18 it was 67 years, and today it's 67 yrs 1 month. Seems like as time goes on the 'best' date is getting pushed out. Does this reflect something about the mortality tables? Thanks.
Last edited by capemaydiamond on Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 7:49 am
WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:44 am
Only other suggestion is more from a Usability perspective when using the Advanced Settings for married couples.

The selection and verbiage around the mortality table for the primary is not nearly as clear as fir the spouse. Minor nit, but would help.
I'm not sure what you mean here. Would you mind elaborating?

The dropdown and the label for the dropdown (i.e., the bold wording "Mortality table") are coded to be identical for you/your spouse. Are you referring to something else? Or are they actually showing differently in your browser? (And if so, would you mind sharing what browser and OS you're using?)
Mike,

Can’t seem to PM you a pan annotated PDF so let me try to describe.

The screen Shows....

Your spouse information - also clear
Spouse Mortality table is in this section
Other inputs — this is where it can be improved....
Real discount rate — applies to all calculations
Assume SS is cut — applies to all calculations
Your Mortality tableShould be in the Your information section since it applies to me, not my spouse.

Does this help?

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

WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:58 pm
Your Mortality tableShould be in the Your information section since it applies to me, not my spouse.
Does this help?
Yes, this does help. The way it is coded, "Your mortality table" is in the "your information" section. So this is a display bug of some sort. Could you share what browser and OS you're using?
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

capemaydiamond wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:42 am
Hi. I've run this a few times and in 11/2018 my spouse's best time to retire was at 66 yrs 9 months, on 12/6/18 it was 67 years, and today it's 67 yrs 1 month. Seems like as time goes on the 'best' date is getting pushed out. Does this reflect something about the mortality tables?
More information (about the inputs you're using) would be needed to know for sure. But most likely it has to do with the discount rate changing as the yield on 20-year TIPS has come down somewhat.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:16 pm
WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:58 pm
Your Mortality tableShould be in the Your information section since it applies to me, not my spouse.
Does this help?
Yes, this does help. The way it is coded, "Your mortality table" is in the "your information" section. So this is a display bug of some sort. Could you share what browser and OS you're using?

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

WoodSpinner wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:26 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:16 pm
WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:58 pm
Your Mortality tableShould be in the Your information section since it applies to me, not my spouse.
Does this help?
Yes, this does help. The way it is coded, "Your mortality table" is in the "your information" section. So this is a display bug of some sort. Could you share what browser and OS you're using?
Thank you. I'll take a look and see if I can figure out what's causing this.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

WoodSpinner wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:26 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:16 pm
WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:58 pm
Your Mortality tableShould be in the Your information section since it applies to me, not my spouse.
Does this help?
Yes, this does help. The way it is coded, "Your mortality table" is in the "your information" section. So this is a display bug of some sort. Could you share what browser and OS you're using?
I believe this display bug has been resolved.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Update: I just rolled out functionality for child benefits and child-in-care spousal benefits.

That's about 9 months of nearly full-time work on this project (~30 hours spent on it per week since April), and the calculator now does all of the major things that I had hoped for it to do. So I think I'll be taking a break for a bit, aside from maybe some small stuff here and there.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:55 am
Update: I just rolled out functionality for child benefits and child-in-care spousal benefits.

That's about 9 months of nearly full-time work on this project (~30 hours spent on it per week since April), and the calculator now does all of the major things that I had hoped for it to do. So I think I'll be taking a break for a bit, aside from maybe some small stuff here and there.
That's incredible. You've probably done the work of 10 government employees or government contractor workers on this project. Thank you for this very useful tool.
"The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:55 am
That's about 9 months of nearly full-time work on this project (~30 hours spent on it per week since April), and the calculator now does all of the major things that I had hoped for it to do. So I think I'll be taking a break for a bit, aside from maybe some small stuff here and there.
And a well-deserved break indeed. Thank you!

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

Forgot to mention: today's update also includes functionality for retroactive applications. (That is, the calculator will now recommend a retroactive application, when such is possible and would be useful.)
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:52 am
WoodSpinner wrote:
Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:26 am
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 1:16 pm
WoodSpinner wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:58 pm
Your Mortality tableShould be in the Your information section since it applies to me, not my spouse.
Does this help?
Yes, this does help. The way it is coded, "Your mortality table" is in the "your information" section. So this is a display bug of some sort. Could you share what browser and OS you're using?
I believe this display bug has been resolved.
Looks good to me ! Many thanks!

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:55 am
Update: I just rolled out functionality for child benefits and child-in-care spousal benefits.

That's about 9 months of nearly full-time work on this project (~30 hours spent on it per week since April), and the calculator now does all of the major things that I had hoped for it to do. So I think I'll be taking a break for a bit, aside from maybe some small stuff here and there.
Thanks for doing all this. We are a family of three - Father and Mother, both at full retirement age (FRA) and with their own earnings records, and 1 Disabled Adult Child (DAC). Mother's spousal benefit is higher if calculated using the Combined Family Maximum. We have been using the Maximize My Social Security model and just applied for benefits effective October 2018, so I am very familiar with how all this works. I plugged in our data to your model and got the right answers assuming (Case A) Father applies for retirement benefits at FRA, Mother simultaneously applies for spousal benefits, and DAC simultaneously applies for benefits on both earner's records.

As a test, I then tried a Case B, entering the fact that the Mother has been receiving her own disability benefits prior to her own FRA (prior to applying for spousal benefits). In that case your model seems to say that her spousal benefit should be lower than in Case A above. Not sure why a past history of collecting SSDI should reduce present spousal retirement benefit. Seems like a possible bug or I'm not using the model correctly. You could send me a PM if you want to pursue this further.

Incidentally, Social Security took over two months to calculate Mother's spousal benefit incorrectly (used family maximum rather than combined family maximum) and we have submitted an appeal for reconsideration.

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

MtnBiker wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 1:40 pm
ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:55 am
Update: I just rolled out functionality for child benefits and child-in-care spousal benefits.

That's about 9 months of nearly full-time work on this project (~30 hours spent on it per week since April), and the calculator now does all of the major things that I had hoped for it to do. So I think I'll be taking a break for a bit, aside from maybe some small stuff here and there.
Thanks for doing all this. We are a family of three - Father and Mother, both at full retirement age (FRA) and with their own earnings records, and 1 Disabled Adult Child (DAC). Mother's spousal benefit is higher if calculated using the Combined Family Maximum. We have been using the Maximize My Social Security model and just applied for benefits effective October 2018, so I am very familiar with how all this works. I plugged in our data to your model and got the right answers assuming (Case A) Father applies for retirement benefits at FRA, Mother simultaneously applies for spousal benefits, and DAC simultaneously applies for benefits on both earner's records.

As a test, I then tried a Case B, entering the fact that the Mother has been receiving her own disability benefits prior to her own FRA (prior to applying for spousal benefits). In that case your model seems to say that her spousal benefit should be lower than in Case A above. Not sure why a past history of collecting SSDI should reduce present spousal retirement benefit. Seems like a possible bug or I'm not using the model correctly. You could send me a PM if you want to pursue this further.
In Case A (Mother not on disability), what did you enter as Mother's PIA and retirement filing date?

As a general rule, spousal benefits should be reduced by the greater of a person's own PIA or retirement benefit. So if she is receiving a retirement benefit in Case B -- due to having converted from a disability benefit -- but not in Case A, her spousal benefit should be smaller in Case B.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:02 pm

In Case A (Mother not on disability), what did you enter as Mother's PIA and retirement filing date?

As a general rule, spousal benefits should be reduced by the greater of a person's own PIA or retirement benefit. So if she is receiving a retirement benefit in Case B -- due to having converted from a disability benefit -- but not in Case A, her spousal benefit should be smaller in Case B.
Case A
Fathers PIA \$2454
Mother's PIA \$307
Father's retirement filing date 10/2018 (at FRA)
Mother's retirement filing date 2/2018 (date she reached FRA, before me)

Calculated:
Spouses Annual Retirement Benefit \$3,684
Spouses Annual Spousal Benefit \$10,129
Total Child Annual Benefit \$14,724

Case B
Fathers PIA \$2454
Mother's PIA \$307
Father's retirement filing date 10/2018 (at FRA)
Mother's SSDI automatically converts to her retirement benefit 2/2018 (date she reached FRA, before me)

Calculated:
Spouses Annual Retirement Benefit \$3,684
Spouses Annual Spousal Benefit \$9,208
Total Child Annual Benefit \$14,724

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

Thank you for the additional details, MtnBiker.

The issue was that the calculator was using the disability family max rules to calculate the family max on Mother's work record.

In other words it was incorrectly using a \$307 family max instead of the correct \$460 family max, which led to a smaller combined family max, which ultimately led to a smaller spousal benefit for her.

It has been fixed now, and you should now see the same \$10,129 annual figure in Case B as well.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

ObliviousInvestor wrote:
Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:14 pm
Thank you for the additional details, MtnBiker.

The issue was that the calculator was using the disability family max rules to calculate the family max on Mother's work record.

In other words it was incorrectly using a \$307 family max instead of the correct \$460 family max, which led to a smaller combined family max, which ultimately led to a smaller spousal benefit for her.

It has been fixed now, and you should now see the same \$10,129 annual figure in Case B as well.
Perfect. Thanks!

Bloodsuckingleeches
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### SS/Open SS calc question

This question revolves around Opensocialsecurity calc and SS calculations in general. Hope this makes sense, here goes:

My wife and I are 48/50 respectively. We have worked contributing SS for 27 and 25 years respectively. Our PIA at 67 is \$2800/month rounded.

When I plug in the following to https://opensocialsecurity.com the following:

DOB 4/15/68 and 4/15/70
PIA 2800/month for both
Still working -yes for both
Stop working - 01/2020 both
Monthly est income per month until retirement is \$8000 both
Child - 1 (4/15/2018 inputted). Not disabled
Assume SS benefit reduction. In 2034 of 23% YES

When I plug these numbers in it tells me the best strategy is to request both benefits at age 62. It states we will receive \$18,218 annually each for a total of \$36,436

1) Since neither of us has worked more than 27/25 years respectively, if we assume stopping work in 2020, is the info inaccurate because it does not take into account all the \$0 income years to meet the 35 year total?

2) I believe the SS.gov website assumes my current level of income for SS contributions to get the \$2800 per month PIA estimate. If this is correct, how can the Opensocialsecurity calculator be remotely accurate in assuming the PIA, let alone when to start the ss distributions?

3) Am I doing this calculator correctly or am I missing something?

Thanks for any help and I hope the questions make sense.

vtMaps
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### Re: SS/Open SS calc question

I suspect the reason for starting at 62 is because you assume a benefit reduction in 2034. If your benefits are cut in 2034, you are probably better off getting as much benefit as possible before the cut.

--vtMaps
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true. --James Branch Cabell

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### Re: SS/Open SS calc question

I think probably because you have a kid under 18 when you take SS. It’s called the Viagra benefits, so just enjoy.

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

I merged Bloodsuckingleeches' thread into the on-going discussion.
To some, the glass is half full. To others, the glass is half empty. To an engineer, it's twice the size it needs to be.

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ObliviousInvestor
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### Re: SS/Open SS calc question

Bloodsuckingleeches wrote:
Tue Jan 15, 2019 6:09 pm
1) Since neither of us has worked more than 27/25 years respectively, if we assume stopping work in 2020, is the info inaccurate because it does not take into account all the \$0 income years to meet the 35 year total?
The calculator takes your PIA as an input, so it is incumbent upon the user to provide an accurate PIA. If you provide a figure that is not your PIA, but rather an estimate of your PIA that was based upon future earnings which you will not have, then yes, the output from the calculator will overstate your benefit amounts.
Bloodsuckingleeches wrote:
Tue Jan 15, 2019 6:09 pm
2) I believe the SS.gov website assumes my current level of income for SS contributions to get the \$2800 per month PIA estimate. If this is correct, how can the Opensocialsecurity calculator be remotely accurate in assuming the PIA, let alone when to start the ss distributions?
Same answer as above. The calculator is not assuming or calculating a PIA at all. It is the user who provides the PIA.

As far as why it's recommending early filing, the posters above are correct that assuming a benefit cut, as well as having a minor child both point in the direction of filing earlier.
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Rolled out another update today.

The calculator now has somewhat more fully developed functionality for people affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision.

Specifically, it allows you to enter a date on which your pension from non-covered employment will begin (so that the calculator knows not to apply the WEP until that date), and it allows you to enter what your PIA would be without the effect of the WEP (so that the calculator can account for the fact that survivor benefits are calculated based on a PIA that hasn't been reduced by WEP).

Special thanks go to Brian Courts who not only offered the suggestion but also wrote much of the code to implement the changes!
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

I thank Mike for the very generous credit he gave for my contribution to the Windfall Elimination Provision calculations. He expanded that procedure well beyond what I provided.

I have been very impressed by what the Open Social Security calculator does well. It provides a broad range of options for people in many circumstances and operates quite quickly.

I have reviewed the source in some depth and found room for improvement in several areas.

The area with the greatest potential impact on users is benefits to children.

For a single person A with child(ren), it calculates, for every year
(1) benefits if A and children are alive times probability A is alive
(2) benefits if only children alive times probability A is deceased
and calculates the sum of (1) & (2).

For a couple (A & B) with children, it calculates, for every year
(1) benefits if A, B, & children alive times probability both A and B are alive
(2) benefits if A & children alive times probability A is alive and B is deceased
(3) benefits if B & children alive times probability B is alive and A is deceased
(4) benefits if only children alive

and calculates the sum of (1), (2) & (3). It does NOT add benefit (4) times its probability.

In a case with only non-disabled children, leaving out children-only benefits is a relatively small difference, because their benefits cease at age 18, when it is unlikely that both parents are deceased.

In a case with disabled adult children, however, this is a significant reduction because their benefits extend as long as they are alive.

That brings up another shortcoming in the present method of calculation. It does not take into account the probability that each child will be alive in a given year, given their age and an appropriate mortality table.

I can understand why the calculator does not go to that length, because it would be very messy.

For a single person A, with children (1 & 2), it would have to calculate, for every year
(1) benefits if A, 1 & 2 are alive times probability A, 1 & 2 are all alive
(2) benefits if A & 1 are alive times probability A & 1 are alive and 2 is deceased
(3) benefits if 1 & 2 are alive times probability 1 & 2 are alive and A is deceased
etc., for 4 more possible combinations of survivors.

For a couple (A & B) with children (1 & 2), it would have to calculate, for every year
(1) benefits if A, B, 1 & 2 are alive times probability A, B, 1 & 2 are all alive
(2) benefits if A, 1 & 2 are alive times probability A, 1 & 2 are alive and B is deceased
(3) benefits if B, 1 & 2 are alive times probability B, 1 & 2 are alive and A is deceased
(4) benefits if A, B & 1 are alive times probability A, B & 1 are alive and 2 is deceased
etc., etc., for 11 more possible combinations of survivors.

It might be satisfactory to assume that all non-disabled children live to age 18. It would be wise to run calculations to determine how much that assumption skews the results.

I have run spreadsheet calculations for cases with disabled children and found that the present calculation skews results significantly. For a single person aged 66 with two disabled children aged 40 and 42, the online version calculates a present value 48% higher than a result taking into account the children's mortality. For a couple, both aged 66, with one disabled child aged 18, the online version calculates a present value 30% lower than a result taking into account mortality of the child.

I do not suggest that the calculator be revised to include all the possible combinations for 1, 2, 3 ... children.

Rather,
(a) if it can be demonstrated that mortality of non-disabled children is insignificant, use the current procedure (adding in children-only benefits for couples), for cases with non-disabled children and
(b) do not accept inputs including disabled children, unless the procedure is revised to take into account their mortality.

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

Brian, thanks again for your input on the calculator. To the best of my knowledge, you're the only person who has really dug into the code -- I really appreciate you taking the time to do that.

Firstly, I should note that this is my busy season with regard to my "real" work (i.e., the books), so it's likely that it may be a few months before I can really put much time into any major changes. (And, depending on what decisions get made here, it could be a major change.)

Regarding the "amount #4" not being added, thank you for catching that. That's just a plain-old error on my part. I hope to make that fix in the near future. (The fix should be easy. It's the numerous affected tests that will take more time.)

As far as child mortality, you're right that ignoring possibility of child deaths does have the effect of significantly overstating NPV in adult disabled child scenarios.

It is generally a very minor effect on the actual recommendation though, because NPV is overstated very similarly from one selected filing age to another. That is, once the child begins receiving benefits, the amount that the child receives (either as a child benefit or as a surviving-child benefit) is generally unaffected by the age at which the parent filed for benefits. So after parent-age-70, the child benefit is the same regardless of when the parent filed. In other words, the NPV of two different filing age options will only be differently overstated as a result of child mortality that occurs before the parent is age 70.

So if we only care about the recommendation (i.e., how good one filing age -- or set of filing ages -- is relative to another), then we're only concerned with how likely the child is to die between parent-age-62 and parent-age-70.

If we're dealing with minor children (rather than adult disabled children), probability of mortality in any 8-year window prior to age 18 is very low -- well below 1%. For adult disabled children, it obviously would depend on how old they are, as well as probably depend significantly on what the disability is.

In writing the code, I was comfortable with assuming that a) people primarily care about how one filing strategy compares to another rather than the actual NPV and b) the child's death probability over the 8-year window is low enough that we don't have to worry about it throwing off the strategy comparison too much.

But either of those assumptions is certainly open to discussion. I'd be interested to hear what anybody else thinks on the topic.

(FYI I have jury duty tomorrow and am therefore unlikely to reply until Tuesday at the earliest.)
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Regarding the impact of ignoring mortality of disabled adult children:

I agree that the primary function of the Open Social Security calculator is to help people determine the best time to file for benefits. In cases where the calculated results do not reflect reality, it would be appropriate to inform the user of that fact.

Using the standard Social Security mortality tables, the probability of a person dying in the next 8 years ranges from 1.4% (starting at 30) to 3.5% (starting at 45) for a male and 0.7% to 2.2% for a female.

I don't know how applicable those tables or age ranges are for disabled adult children.

I welcome any spreadsheet or other calculations to estimate the effects on long-range social security benefits.

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

I have run across a scenario where I can’t input the filing situation the way it really is.

I don’t believe this will change the recommendation opensocialsecurity arrives at in this specific case. However, I thought I’d point it out in case there is some pathological set of input parameters for a situation like this where the recommendation might change if the actual situation could be input properly.

Marital Status: Married
Gender: Male
Birthdate: 11/15/1951
Have you already filed for retirement benefits?: No.
PIA: \$2,500

Gender: Female
Birthdate: 11/15/1945
PIA: \$500
Month and year in which your spouse filed for his/her retirement benefit: 11/2011

Recommended Strategy
The strategy that maximizes the total dollars you can be expected to spend over your lifetimes is as follows:
You file for your spousal benefit to begin (retroactively) as of 11/2018, at age 67 and 0 months.
You file for your retirement benefit to begin 7/2020, at age 68 and 8 months.
Your spouse files for his/her spousal benefit to begin 7/2020, at age 74 and 8 months.
The present value of this proposed solution would be \$713,549.

The problem is … opensocialsecurity says for you to file for your spousal benefitr as of 11/2018. In reality, this person already filed for his spousal benefit in 11/2017. Not retirement benefit, but spousal benefit. This will most certainly change the PV of the proposed solution; I just don’t know if the actual recommended filing dates would ever change because of that for a scenario like this.

One Ping
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ObliviousInvestor
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

One Ping,

You are correct that there is no way to input that a person has already filed a restricted application. A restricted application is a "free lunch" though. If the conditions for a restricted application are already met, the result will essentially be that it's just going to tell you to file one ASAP (even retroactively, to the extent possible).

So yes it will mess up the PV in that the PV will be overstated by the extent of the retroactive benefits. (Whereas in reality benefits were already received for those months, and should therefore not be included in the analysis.) But it won't affect the suggested strategy (other than of course that it will recommend a spousal filing, even though such has already happened).
Mike Piper, author/blogger

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

Thanks, Mike. That's what I figured.
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One Ping
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

Just tried to use the calculator and it doesn't seem to be working. Input data, click submit, the screen flashes for an instant, but then no results.

Using Firefox Quantum Ver. 66.0.5 (64-bit). It says it is 'up to date.'
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ObliviousInvestor
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### Re: "Open Social Security" calculator: feature requests, bug reports, etc

One Ping wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 6:19 pm
Just tried to use the calculator and it doesn't seem to be working. Input data, click submit, the screen flashes for an instant, but then no results.

Using Firefox Quantum Ver. 66.0.5 (64-bit). It says it is 'up to date.'
Hmm. Thanks for the notification. I was working on it today (just a few small things -- updating it to use the new SSA mortality table for instance), so apparently something has gone wrong there.

I've tried using it on all my various devices though, and it's working fine for me, including on Firefox.

Are you getting the same no-result outcome regardless of what inputs you use? (Trying to figure out here whether it's a function of the browser/OS combination, or a function of the inputs being used.)
Mike Piper, author/blogger