Friday, April 11, 2008

Time for a Book Report

The folks at Sphinx Publishing, who put out a number of self-help books on various legal subjects asked me to take a look at their Social Security Answer Book by attorney Stanley A. Tomkiel III.

In general, I don't favor "do it yourself" law handbooks because most legal issues are very state-specific. This means that any book that purports to cover a broad legal subject, say divorce for example, is necessarily shallow.

But Social Security is a federal program that is the same for recipients, no matter where they reside.

Tomkiel's book is chatty, easily read, and surprisingly helpful. It presents its material in a Question and Answer format, but rather than state a principle just once, the author conveys the same information in several different ways, fashioned as responses to the questions of "regular folks."

As one of those "regular folks," this worked well for me.

I turned first to the Retirement section since that is what is always on my mind. Tomkiel's answers confirmed what I already partly knew--it will be simpler and I'll get more money if I do not take retirement at age 62, but wait until my "full retirement age" of 66 or beyond. The rules are more complex for those who wish to retire at age 62, but the author does a good job of clarifying the issues surrounding this choice.

The remainder of the book covers disability, spouses' benefits, children's benefits, and instructions on how and when to apply for benefits. The rules for divorced spouses are complicated but the Question and Answer format was quite useful as a tool to understand exactly what needed to happen in order to be eligible.

I found the short chapter on Medicare to be especially helpful. Tomkiel is careful to sort out the differences between Medicare and Medicaid, which many people lump together even though they are very different programs.

The book does NOT cover Supplemental Security Income which is the federal program covering disabled persons who do not have the necessary 40 quarters of work that would enable them to get Social Security benefits.

So, do I recommend the book? Yes.

But cheapskate that I am, I'd probably suggest to my local library that THEY buy it and let me check it out!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Grace for your most kind comments about my book. You have a very interesting and useful blog that is a valuable resource for us spend-thrift baby-boomers!

On an editorial note, the third to last paragraph of your review needs a "not" after "do" to read: "...disabled persons who do not have the necessary 40 quarters..."

Once again thanks for your comments.

Stan Tomkiel

Grace. said...

See, that's the thing about authors. Inside every one of them is an editor clawing his or her way out! OK, I fixed the grammar.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the situation will be different when I get there, but I hope they or someone else writes a similar book. It was rather tough to straighten all that out with my grandmother and my parents themselves will be eligible in a couple years (3 if they have to do 66). I'll recommend this book to them.