J.B Hilliard speaks the truth. The state of Florida hoodwinked us. Without a local tax or toll to expand the 331 bridge, 331 improvements would move glacially. After all, new bridge construction in Florida would require either tolls or taxes. Not exactly, somehow Pensacola Bay’s Three Mile Bridge dodged those bullets.  J.B.’s right; maybe we should ask for a mulligan.

Folks in South Walton ought to understand hoodwinked; it happens frequently. More than 90 percent of tax revenue comes from south of the bay but the county commissioners keep South Walton on the back burner. Their leading priority for 2013 is the continued enhancement of the Mossy Head Industrial Park.  Note to the BCC, we have an industrial park on 98.  To paraphrase a former commissioner, help a fella out. 

Conversely, some people believe Social Security hoodwinks them, but they would be wrong. Younger workers look at the numbers and see money going down a black hole. Without Social Security, the burden of caring for your parents falls on you.  Before Social Security when you got too old to work, you became your children’s burden. If you have young kids, Social Security supplements your disability insurance and for many provides their only source of disability insurance.

Demographics will force changes to Social Security but the program has changed many times since its inception.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently picked some low hanging fruit that will save $70 million annually but will require some adjustments for beneficiaries and not-yet beneficiaries. Beginning in March, Social Security will be digital only. If you still receive checks by mail, call 800-772-1213 or go the Social Security Administration’s website (www.ssa.gov) to set up direct deposits. As a cost-saving measure in 2011, Social Security stopped mailing projected benefit statements. After financial advisors howled, the SSA reinstated it for workers 60 and over who were not receiving benefits. The party is over, sayonora paper statements.  

Don’t despair! You can set up an online account then view, print and save an identical version of the paper statement. In addition to ending the paper chase, the website/statement provides enhanced functionality. The online statements provide a future benefits estimate. For those receiving benefits, the SSA’s online program provides instant benefit verification letters to secure loans or apply for state benefits. The instant verification can also help with Medicare coverage.

Anyone over 18 can register for an online Social Security account. The SSA requires a valid email address, mailing address along with your Social Security number. A note of warning: Similar to Treasury Direct’s website, the online website has a high level of security. SSA actually matches your Social Security information with your credit report to thwart identity thieves.

This is an example of a government agency being more secure than most commercial entities.  In complete honesty, I locked myself out of the website. I found out the hard way passwords only work for six months. Don’t despair, a phone call the next day, a five minute wait and I was back in the saddle. If you struggle with the website, visit a local office and they can walk you through the process. Luddites can request a paper statement via snail mail.

Social Security obfuscation abounds and the haters should read Jason Zweig’s Wall Street Journal’s column “You're Not as Good an Investor as You Think You Are.” Don’t get fooled again.

Buz Livingston, CFP offers hourly financial planning and fee-only investment management to clients along Florida’s Emerald Coast.  Contact him at 267-1068, Buz@LivingstonFinancial.net or www.LivingstonFinancial.net.