Wednesday, November 4, 2015

New Social Security Changes buried in Budget Act of 2015 kills "File and Suspend" Strategy for Retirees

The Congress, Senate, and President screwed future retirees and didn't tell you about it.

They cut our Social Security Benefits !!!

On Monday November 2, 2015, President Obama signed into law the "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015" which was proposed and passed by both the Republicans and Democrats in both Houses of Congress. As part of this Act, the section "TITLE VIII - SOCIAL SECURITY, Subtitle C - Protecting Social Security Benefits" essentially eliminates the ability for future retirees to collect spousal benefits while suspending their own at the same time.

The new Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 still allows individuals to:
  • "File and Suspend" their benefits once they reach full retirement age, allowing benefits to grow by 8% annually; or to
  • Collect the higher of spousal benefits or the benefits based on their own work record.

But, people cannot both "file and suspend" and "collect" at the same time unless they are already doing so. This means that nothing can be collected from a "suspended" account.

In the past, any person who reached full retirement age could "file and suspend" their benefits. Then, if married (or divorced), they could collect spousal benefits based on their partner's SSI work history. This meant that both a husband and wife could simultaneously suspend their benefits from age 66 to 70, and one of them could collect a spousal benefit at the same time (which is equal to 1/2 of a persons FRA benefit).

However, the new  Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 prevents anyone from collecting benefits on "suspended" account, and after April 30 2016, nobody can "file and suspend" if they are collecting spousal benefits.

Congress provided very little time for both retirees and near-retirees to react and adjust their retirement strategies:
  • They prevent anyone who turns 62 after December 31 2015 from both collecting spousal benefits and suspending their benefits. Once they have received a benefit (either theirs or spousal), they have forfeited their right to suspend. However, if they do not collect, they may suspend.
  • Those who are 62 and above at the end of 2015 can collect spousal benefits and suspend at the same time.
  • But, to qualify for the above, their spouse has only 180 days to have either: begun collecting or have "filed and suspended" benefits. Since the Act was signed into law on November 2 2015, the 180 day grace period ends on April 30 2016. If a spouse has not filed before this date, the spousal benefit is forfeited.

What steps MUST you take?

There is very little wiggle room in this new law. However, the "small" group of people who are 66 or older can still protect most of their benefits.

  • First, if you are of Full Retirement Age (now or soon), either file for benefits or "file and suspend" before April 30 2016.
  • Second, if you have reached FRA and have not filed - do so immediately. If you do this after April 30 2016, you lose the ability for someone to collect your spousal benefits.
  • Third, if you can file, do so immediately. We anticipate that SSI will experience backlogs as the April 30th deadline nears, and many will be "out of luck" simply due to bureaucracy.
  • Fourth, those of you who are already collecting benefits are "grandfathered-in", meaning you will not lose their benefits. So, don't worry, you are not affected.


Situation 1:Tom 68 has filed for benefits 2 years ago and suspended his payments. His wife, Elaine 66, began collecting spousal benefits and suspended her payments as well. Action: Since they have both filed, above FRA, and already collecting, nothing will change.

Situation 2: Fred is 67, above FRA, but he did not file for benefits. By not filing, Fred's benefits are growing at 8% per year (just like suspending). His wife Alice is 65 and will turn 66 next October, and she expects to suspend her benefits then and begin collecting spousal benefits. Action: Fred must "File and Suspend" NOW. If he does not file before April 30 2016, Alice will not be able to both suspend her benefits and collect spousal benefits in October.

Assuming Fred does file in time, Fred and Alice must make more decisions. If Alice begins to collect spousal benefits, then Fred must "unsuspend" and beging receiving SSI as well. Alice can continue to defer her benefits until age 70 because she was older than 62 on December 31 2015.

Because Alice does is not of FRA before the April 30th deadline, Fred cannot collect spousal benefits on Alice's account.

Situation 3: Mike turns 66 in February. His wife Jean is 64. Action: Mike must file for SSI in February. He can either take benefits or defer. Because Jean is currently above 62, she retains the ability to collect spousal benefits and to defer her own SSI payments. If Mike files after April 30, Jean will lose her option to collect and defer.

Situation 4: Bobby is turning 66 in March 2016. His wife Rachel is 61, and turns 62 on January 1 2016. Action: Bobby should file in March and can defer or receive payments. Rachel cannot defer if she receives any SSI benefits at all whether they be her own or spousal. This is because she is under 62 on December 31 2015.

Why were these changes made?
  • Because only a small group of old people will be affected (those near retirement age)
  • Those already receiving benefits will not care
  • The younger people are too dumb to know what happened
  • The Congress and President want to increase their own retirement benefits
  • To save Social Security?
  • To close a loophole?
  • Because we want to spend more on Government and screw the American public

Notes and references:

H.R.1314 - Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015
  • Subtitle C - Protecting Social Security Benefits
  • Sec. 831. Closure of unintended loopholes.
  • Signed into law by President Obama on Monday November 2 2015
  • Senate Passed
  • Congress Passed

42 USC 402: Old-age and survivors insurance benefit payments
  • Existing SSI Law - prior to Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

Neither of  two articles below mentions the above changes.

This source helps to describe the changes.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Google changing mobile search listings April 21 !!!

Google is changing it's mobile search engine results listings. 

Beginning April 21 2015, it will only display sites that are mobile friendly when searches are performed on mobile devices !!! 

This means, if you have a website and have not prepared a mobile version of it, then your site will most likely not be listed on mobile phone or tablet searches.

Announcements of this change are only beginning to circulate, so many are not aware if this major change. To borrow a phrase from Dancing with the Stars:

Are you in Jeopardy?

You can quickly find out by taking Google's " Mobile-Friendly Test ". Simply click on this link and enter your URL.

If you receive an "Awsome! This page is mobile-friendly" banner, then you are all set.

But, if you get a "Not mobile-friendly" banner, you have work to do.

So what should you do now? First, test you generic webpage url and get that in order. Second, begin checking important pages within your site to make sure that they will appear. This will be a lot of work for most website owners but it needs to be done.

You can learn more by visiting these resources.

Best of luck - it sounds like it will be a long summer.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hamburgers or Hot Dogs? What's your 4th of July favorite?

As I was driving to work this morning, I was reminded on the radio that today is the Nathan's Famous Forth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest to be held at City Hall in New York City.

But, I'm not a huge hot dog fan (because they always repeat on me and have an after-taste).

Hamburgers or hot dogs? (from
Instead, I would rather eat a good hamburger or cheeseburger. My favorites are fresh hand-pressed patties (1/3 to 1/2 pound), with a little salt & pepper seasoning and cooked medium rare on a barbecue grill. These seem to retain the juices much better than the store processed thin patties, and they do not burn or dry out. I like the 80% mixture, because there is enough fat to melt throughout and keep the meat moist.

Two of my best friends like hot dogs better. One of them will eat a dog wherever they are offered, on the street, in a fancy restaurant, or at home. Whenever we are entertained by these two, they always cook a dozen or more at a time. They don't mind that only half are eaten because they eat the rest as leftovers (even for breakfast).

With tomorrow being the 4th of July, we will be spending it with my brother-in-law, who also loves hot dogs. I'll eat a couple just to be polite.

That left me wondering whether other people preferred hamburgers or hot dogs. 

If you get a chance, please drop a comment and let me know. I'd love to know what other bloggers and readers like better.

 And with that,

 I want to wish everyone a wonderful 4th of July !!! 

Happy 4th of July (from

 JL .........

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recovering from an Unnatural Links Penalty - A Real Life Example

Many website and blog posts written as guides to help someone recover from an unnatural links penalty only describe generic actions that one may take. Unfortunately, as most have found, these articles rarely deal with specific actions, and leave the violators at a loss for resolving the underlying issue.

This post describes a real experience of how a fellow blogger removed an unnatural links penalty violation and restored his PageRank.

In mid-August, I received a message from a blogging friend stating that he had received a notice from Google in Webmaster Tools indicating that his blog violated Google's quality quidelines. As a result, his blog may or may not appear in search results, or not place as highly in the results. In addition, Google provided him with a specific post.

This type of violation is commonly referred to as an:

"Unnatural Links Penalty".

His blog is hosted on Blogger, is 7 years old, has over 1,000 posts, and enjoyed a PageRank of 3. (Note that out of respect for his privacy, I will not list his name or blog URL).
Google gets tough on link sellers with PageRank penalty (from

At the time I was contacted, his PageRank had dropped to 0, but the blog was still appearing in search results. Prior to contacting me, the blogger attempted to fix this violation by searching the web and asking for help in the google forums. To that extent, he had received a couple of good suggestions which he followed. However, these actions did not resolve the problem.

Primarily, my friend's blog is a personal blog, consisting of a variety of stories, opinions, and observations. However, in his attempt to generate revenue, he enrolled in a few "Sponsored Pay per Review" programs and began writing sponsored posts. Thinking that these posts were causing the problem, he changed the included URL's to "nofollow" and asked for reconsideration. That did not help. Further, people told him that it appeared his site was "just selling links" and did not have a consistant theme. These comments were frustrating and disappointing to the blogger.

My Review
The first course of action that I took was to understand what steps had already been taken. After learning this, I realized that the penalty was "blog" related and not "post" specific.

So, I began looking at all the widgets and links he had on his sidebar and footings. There, I recommended that he remove all the "Sponsored Post" links and images. Next, I found a link to a gambling site that needed to be removed. Still, the penalty remained.

Finally, I followed the remaining widgets that he placed on the blog. At the bottom was a link to a "Book Review" site. When I visited that site, I saw 2 reviews. Both were reviews of individual posts on his blog with links back to the posts.  I realized that this created a "circular" link from his blog, to that site, and back to his blog. Clearly, that was unnatural.

He then removed that advertising widget from his blog and he asked for reconsideration. Within days, he received a message from Google saying that the violation was removed and the penalty would be lifted. At last, the problem was discovered!  By the end of the following day, the blog's page rank was restored back to 3 again and all is now well.

Lessons learned - Things to Avoid
Very often, unnatural links can be created out of ignorance. Many times, a blogger or webmaster is simply trying to take advantage of the tools available. This is particularily true for seasoned and experienced authors. However, some blogs and websites are created the with malicious intent to boost their PageRanks and earn a quick buck. While Google can distinguish between the age of the sites, it cannot always tell what the motivation is. Thus, play it safe and try to maintain a clean enviromnent.

From this experience and my previous encounters, my friend and I learned a few important lessons.
  1. Try to avoid penalties by refraining from violating guidelines entirely. Always err on the side of caution.
  2. Refrain from writing Sponsored Posts. However, if you do this, make sure that: you begin by saying that you are being paid for the content of the post; and be sure to set each link in that post as "no follow".
  3. Do Not place links to your blog or website on other websites or blogs. This includes comments.
  4. Do Not place links to gambling (i.e. those where you can actually gamble or practice gambling) or other prohibited site.
  5. Enroll your blog or website on Google's Webmaster Tools. By doing this, you can be alerted to violations, rather that operating in the dark. 
  6. Do Not link sub-domains together or to your site. Sub-domains are considered to be unique URLs. When you use and reference sub-domains, you are effectively creating fake circular links.
Removing a violation
If you do receive an unnatural links penalty notice, first read and understand Google's content guidelines. Then, follow the advice of this post. You have to think back and remember at all your actions and question everything that you have done. For example: Did you leave your links in comments just to get a backlink?, Did you write Sponsored posts and not indicate it?, Are you using sub-domains?, etc.

An Exception
One exception to "circular" unnatural links are those you would list in a "Links to My Other Sites" section. These should only be links to other sites that you own, and the heading should be labeled clearly.

Whenever you question one of your links or widgets, flag them as "no follow" or remove them entirely. If you are hesitant to make these type of changes to restore your credibility, then perhaps the violation was intended rather than accidental; and thus, a penalty is warranted.


Friday, July 26, 2013

How to add Mathematical Formulas to a Blog or Webpage

I've recently been working on a mathematical derivation of the Poisson Distribution and am nearing its completion. As I am planning to document this information, I realized that the simplest explanation is to illustrate the underlying formulas.

Through my browsing, I found a couple of webpages that include various formulas. By accident, I happened to "right click" on one of them and was presented with a pop-up menu from MathJax.

Following the links, I learned that MathJax is exactly what I need.

For example, the Poisson distribution formula is:

`P(X)=(e^-mu mu^x)/(x!)`

To get this to display correctly in Blogger or a webpage, two things must first be done.

First: The template must be edited and a CDN link to MathJax must be added. The line to be added is:

<script src="" type="text/javascript">

and it should be placed just before the </head> tag. Once you have added this line, make sure you save the blog template or webpage. This only has to be done once in each blog or webpage where you want to display formulas.

Second: Now that this is complete, you may now enter formulas.  This should always be done in raw HTML mode (but this is not necessary in Blogger).

The syntax for MathJax is very similar to mathematical expressions when using ASCII Math notation. The html code for the above Poisson formula is:
`P(X)=(e^-mu mu^x)/(x!)`
The formula will remain in this format when you are editing the webpage or blog post. But, when you display it after it is published and viewed in a browser, the MathJax script will translate the HTML syntax into the corresponding  mathematical formula.

Additional Helpful Links

Friday, May 3, 2013

One reason college graduates and the unemployed cannot find jobs

May and June are graduation months. During this period, between 1.5 and 2.2 million students will be graduating from college with associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.

In addition, between 6 and 8 million college age students will  be looking for summer employment.

At the same time, the politicians and news media are trying to paint a rosy picture of how the economy is improving. They cite that an average of 200,000 new jobs are being created monthly. This translates into 2.4 million new jobs per year.

But, when we compare the number of graduates who will be entering the workforce to the number of jobs being created, we find a net difference of only 200,000 to 900,000 new jobs over the year.

The problem facing young graduates is the pure size of  those graduating all at once. Of the total 1.5 to 2.2 million looking for work, only 200,000 jobs will be available in any one month. That leaves a large number who will not be employed right away. A Townhall article cites that only 16% of those graduating from college this year have already landed a job. That translates into 240,000 to 352,000 with jobs, which represents between 1 and 2 months of employment gain.

Making matters worse for the new graduates, is the fact that there is approximately 8 times more people who are currently unemployed and competing for new jobs (i.e. 10 to 12 million people).

Thus, at a time when jobs are hard to find, the new graduates only compound the unemployment situation. Using the current economic growth rate, it will take more than 10 years before everyone is absorbed into the workforce.

But, there are certain things that college graduates and others can do to improve their chances of finding a job. First, and foremost, is to consider moving to a region of the country where jobs are available. Several states where unemployment is lower than the national average are: Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Kansas, Hawaii, Vermont, New Hampshire, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas.

While many graduates and their parents want their sons and daughters to remain home, very often there are not too many jobs available for those with your education. However, if you are willing to move, you may find that your specialty is in need somewhere else.

Now is the time for young graduates to make the move. Think of it as travel, an adventure. As a young person, you may not be tied down with a spouse or children. Second, you have a chance to get away. Third, if it doesn't work out, you can always move back home again.

Everything’s Bigger in Texas…Except the Unemployment Rate
Best of luck and congratulations to all!


Friday, March 8, 2013

2 Ravens (or Crows) attack a squirrel and carry it away

When I left work two weeks ago, I saw my first robin pecking at the ground. Ah, "Spring is here" I thought. The temperatures were warming up and most of the snow had melted.

The next morning, I was home, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out at the early Saturday morning sun.

A squirrel was in a tree building a nest in a nearby tree. Yes I thought, indeed "Spring is here".

The nest was quite large, about 2 feet in diameter (I guess) and was located in the crock of two branches about 20 feet above the ground. The squirrel would run and jump to adjacent branches, nibble off a twig, and then insert it into the nest. Every so often, the squirrel entered the nest and appeared to push everything into place.

After I watched the squirrel jump off to another branch, a big black bird landed about a foot away from the nest. It stood there, cocking its head, looking at the nest. At first I thought it was a crow, but it looked awfully large. So, I decided it must be a Raven.

As the squirrel returned to the nest, the raven hopped away. But when the squirrel ran off to get another twig, the raven boldly hopped over to the nest and looked into it. Then the squirrel returned and the raven backed away.

I thought it was odd that the squirrel ignored the bird, but it must not have felt threatened.

When the squirrel left the nest again, a second raven landed on an adjacent branch. "Two against one", I thought. But the both birds just stood on the branches, watching the busy squirrel.

When the squirrel returned one more time, and entered the nest, the two ravens attacked. With open wings, they hopped onto the nest. The first raven grabbed the squirrel by the neck, and the second raven took the tail. Then they flew off together with the squirrel trying to get free. I watched them fly until they disappeared over the trees.

"Wow" I thought! I didn't know that crows or ravens would attack a living squirrel. I knew they were scavengers and would eat a dead carcass, but I didn't know that they would hunt in pairs and kill their prey.

I told this story to my mother-in-law who is 85 years old. She grew up on a farm and told me "Oh yes, they do attack animals". She said that when she was young, her mother told her to watch the chickens and chase away any birds that would land. But, as she was watching, a big crow (or raven perhaps), swooped down from the sky, grabbed a small chicken, and flew away with it. Just like that!

So now when I look out my window and see that unfinished nest, I think about the poor squirrel who was just trying to make a summer home for itself and live in harmony with all the wild creatures. I guess "Spring is really here"!

Read more:
I found a very similar story titled: Wild Bird Wednesday
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