For the past few weeks I have felt anxiety building up. It wasn’t overwhelming, but certainly something was amiss.
I decided it must be related to an appointment I had on January 9th with our government friends at the Social Security Administration.
Ah, government bureaucracy. Don’t you love it?
When you retire, the amount of your monthly benefit is based on your previous year’s income. God knows how they work it out. But here’s the thing: if you have a “blip” one year, as I did in 2018 (thanks, Bank of America), it can mess things up big time.
Without going into the tedious story of how Bank of America screwed me over, I’ll just say that when I decided, out of a clear blue sky, in June 2018, to up sticks and high-tail it back to New York, there was a slight issue of how to free up the money needed to purchase my new home.
The way it worked out, I had to pull out almost my entire IRA fund. Bad idea, I know, but it would have been a whole lot worse to abandon my plan in the late stage at which I discovered this to be my only alternative.
Massive tax penalty. Well, massive for me. It wasn’t so much the being penalized for early withdrawal, after all it was going to be taxed at some point. It was the thought of where my tax dollars would be going that stuck in my gut.
But so be it. I swallowed that bitter pill and moved on.
It was recommended that as soon as possible, on arrival in New York, I should contact a new accountant for advice on my new, reduced, financial status. It took a while to accomplish this, as I waited for various bits of “debris” to settle. Minor details, such as selling the house back in Washington.
In due course, however, all of this occurred and I was warned by my nice new accountant that my impulsive move “could” affect my social security payments, 18 months hence, but we didn’t go into the sticky details.
The sticky details arrived a few weeks ago in a brief from the SSA about my 2020 payments. Well, of course, in 2018 I appeared to have suddenly expanded my financial horizons, more than doubled my yearly income.
So, I should not be requiring as much “help” from Social Security. My benefit would be reduced, never mind that I had paid taxes for it since I was 16.
OK then, time to make an appointment to get all of this sorted out. Which is what I did yesterday.
With my “date” in mind, I had assembled a stack of possibly pertinent paperwork to present to a person at the SSA.
Shouldn’t have bothered.
They knew I was coming. They had it on their little file. They could have sent me a nice little letter and saved me wasting my time.
But I rather think they like to see people squirm. I know these people. They are related to the Immigration and Customs people I became well acquainted with at JFK and SEATAC.
“My name is Joe. I’m here to help you today.”
Joe greeted me with an insipid smile.
He looked dismissively at my briefcase full of documents.
I obviously didn’t need to take them out.
He asked one simple question:
“Did you, in 2018, experience a life changing event?”
Well, yes I did, actually. Earth shattering, in fact. My life took a 180.
I didn’t say that. I could tell this was pointless. I could see it in his face. I said:
“I’m sure moving 3,000 miles across country with 13 cats doesn’t qualify.”
Smirk. “No.” He asked:
“Did you lose a partner?”
Never had one to lose. “No.”
“Did you get divorced?”
“Did you get married?”
“Did you lose your job?”
Nasty little man. His computer held the answer to that. No. I had to give it up in 2007.
“Did you lose an income-producing property?”
My house in Washington was a foster-care facility for cats. Expenditures only. Mine.
“Then you don’t qualify.”
I told him very briefly about my ordeal with BoA. He curled his lip as if to say:
“Is there any way I can appeal the decision?”
“IT’S THE LAW!”
In other words:
“If you appeal, you are asking for the law to be broken. You will be a criminal!”
Right then. I’ll go.
“Have a nice rest of your day.”
You can imagine, perhaps, what I thought he could do with that.
So now, on top of the obscene amount of tax I had to pay last year, I get reduced benefits for a year.
Anyone who knows me could tell you that 2018 was life-changing for me.
Ah, but it was in a good way and it was my idea.
It makes no difference that my sanity was restored, that I would have eventually lost my mind, had I not done this thing.
“Cos that’s the LAW.
The Law is an idiot.
Glad I got that off my chest.
Here’s how much Colin cares.