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Social Security Benefits Made Easy, Part 2

Posted in Money

Baby Boomers…Did you get a chance to read this blog on Social Security benefits made easy?

How did you do on the AARP quiz?

I told you things were not as simple with our Social Security system as we had hoped.

So, do you have any idea where the whole thing started?

Are you even interested?

Well, just in case you find yourself cornered in a high-brow conversation at a cocktail party with several other boomers discussing the history of social welfare and government reforms, here’s a quick overview of the birth of our wonderful federal program.

A small scale version of Social Security insurance was developed as a program during the Great Depression of the 1930′s.

Strangely enough, the economic scenario our country was much the same as the mid 2000′s we just lived through.

The great stock market crash of 1929 had destroyed the value of many Americans’ retirement savings.

IRA’s dwindled, banks failed and personal financial futures became despondent overnight.

All that was missing was a major housing bubble collapse, huh?

In 1929, the poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent.

Things did not look good for the future of senior citizens in the U.S.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to advocate federal assistance for the senior citizen demographic by signing into law the Social Security Act in August, 1935 as part of the “New Deal” program.

The Act was a part of Roosevelt’s plan to combat the growing instabilities in the modern American culture, including advanced aging, poverty and unemployment.

The SSA provided health and financial benefits to retirees and the unemployed including comprehensive insurance payments at death.

These payments to existing retirees were to be funded by a payroll tax on current worker’s wages, half as a payroll tax and half paid by the employer.

The act also gave money directly to the states to provide financial programs and assistance to senior citizens in the form of unemployment insurance, aid to families with dependent children, maternal and child welfare, public health services and services for the blind.

Believe it or not, The Social Security Act (SSA) was only 37 pages long when first approved.

It has blossomed some over the years hasn’t it?

The very first social security cards were issued in 1937.

Some 20 million were issued in first year .

In 1939, the funding for this program was restructured and handed over to the Internal Revenue Service and renamed the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

Social Security payroll taxes are thus often referred to as “FICA taxes.”

If you want my opinion, I think the Internal Revenue Service owns everything and runs everything in this country (and a few small third world countries as well).

In 1940, the first monthly benefit check was issued to Ida Mae Fuller for $22.54.

Sorry, but she is so cute.

She looks just like my Grandmother.

There have been other updates over the years to keep up with the growing pains of the program.

Benefits increased and regular cost of living adjustments (COLAs) were established in 1950.

The first attempt at a disability program was added to Social Security in 1954

The early retirement age was lowered to age 62 with reduced benefits in the early 60′s.

In 1965, Medicare health care benefits were added to the same program.

Over 20 million senior citizens signed up for benefits in the first three years of the new program so a Medicare tax of 0.7% was added to pay for increased Medicare expenses.

In 1972, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program became a federal program and was assigned to Social Security Administration.

So, now that you know everything that is important to know about the formation of the Social Security system, there are two things to remember for your next cocktail party conversation:

1. The Social Security benefits that you are entitled to receive are actually a form of insurance that you pay into the system through your FICA taxes.

  • You become eligible to receive these benefits by accumulating credits by paying FICA taxes.
  • You receive one credit for every $1,200 of earnings in a calendar year.
  • You can earn a maximum of four credits a year.
  • You need at least 40 credits to be eligible.
  • The number of credits you need to be eligible for benefits depends on your age and the type of benefit.

2. There are actually five different benefit programs under the umbrella of the Social Security program.

Each has its own qualifications, requirements and benefit structures.

These include:

  • Retirement Benefits
  • Disability Benefits
  • Survivor’s Benefits
  • Medicare Benefits

and

  • Supplemental Security Income

Hopefully, this is not all incredibly boring to you because it is a very important program to understand and can play a very important role in your retirement financial plans.

Tomorrow we will begin to dig a little deeper into these different benefit programs, how you qualify and what resources are available to you.

Season 3 of ‘Don’t Be Tardy’ Debuts

Posted in Entertainment

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Photo Credit: BravoTV

Season 3 of Bravo’s “Don’t Be Tardy….” debuted on July 17 to an impressive 1.1 million viewers.

This season Kim and Kroy are busy juggling 6 kids, his football career, a big house and perhaps hiring a little staff to help manage it all.

“I keep a very strict schedule” noted star of the show Kim Zolciak Biermann. “Without that schedule, things can go awry quickly. This season I am considering hiring staff to help manage that schedule which will hopefully give me more quality time with my husband and kids.”

New staff could include a personal assistant, a good nanny, professional housekeeper, pool crew and even a landscaper. But will they be able to handle Kim’s strict schedule?

“I’m really pretty lenient” stated the former Real Housewives of Atlanta star. “My boundaries might be a little blurred. I might have to start being an a$$hole in order to get things done.”

Things get a little heated this season when the conversation turns to Kim needing to allow her daughter to grow up. Will she be able to let go or will it compel her to hold on tighter?

Beyond the cussing and the stress, Kim is a very happy person who is just grateful for the opportunities that have come her way. She is certainly living the dream!

“Don’t Be Tardy…” airs Thursday 9pm ET/PT on Bravo

Willem Dafoe: THE ART OF The Hero, The Villain, And Everyone In Between

Posted in Entertainment

Willem Dafoe never set out to be a famous actor; he wasn’t a child who dreamed of a place in Hollywood. In fact, growing up, he didn’t really have an answer for those who asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I never had a picture in mind, I just kind of drifted from situation to situation” he explained for NEWSWIRE.FM‘s ONE WORLD series. “I never had that moment that you hear a lot of actors have where they say ‘oh I want to be an actor.’” For Willem, it was more of a progression from one project to another without a clear desire to turn it into a larger career. But a career is precisely what it became. He recently sat down with Deepak Chopra to discuss his work, the art of acting and how he approaches each new role.

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Regardless of his intention at the outset, Dafoe’s career took off and since his start with Theater X in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Willem has been acting in a variety of films and theater productions many of them receiving critical acclaim. He has brought to life a broad range of characters in his long career and yet he insists that he identifies with every role he plays. “It becomes an opportunity to take on a new way of seeing and new way of being,” he said.

Dafoe has played the hero, the villain and everyone in between and he sees these differing roles not as challenges but as “beautiful opportunities to take on the other.” The goal is to disappear into a role and allow the rest of the world to temporarily fall away. The deeper an understanding of any given character, the more successful he is likely to be in transmitting that understanding to his audience.

He doesn’t have very much formal training himself and is not entirely sure that formal training can work for all actors, rather Dafoe advises aspiring actors to gravitate towards what they like and surrounding themselves with people who have experience in that area. “I believe very much in apprenticeship; I believe very much in being around people that are doing the things that you want to do and learning from them.” It is sound advice for any career and if Dafoe’s illustrious career is any indication; it works.

This is a blog series produced in partnership with One World, a video series with Deepak Chopra and NEWSWIRE.FM.  To view the full video and subscribe to all the episodes click here.

Kim Kardashian Tans In A Bikini Because She’s Always On Vacation

Posted in Entertainment

Another day, another photo of Kim Kardashian in a bikini, because that’s how the universe works. And because the reality star always seems to be on vacation.

Of course, when living your life in front of a camera happens to be the majority of your job, and your life happens to take you to gorgeous and luxurious locales, the line between work and vacation tends to blur. It could be argued that though Kardashian is technically on vacation in Mexico with her husband Kanye West and their adorable daughter North, she’s still hard at work due to all the photos she’s posting to Instagram. Considering that a large part of Kardashian’s job involves ensuring that the public remembers she exists, her constant updates on social media, truly are part of the grind.

But who are we kidding? Taking selfies isn’t exactly manual labor, and by our count, the 33-year-old has clocked a ton of vacation time this year.

There were numerous trips to Paris, a family vacation in Thailand, her honeymoon in Ireland, which was followed up two weeks later with a quick trip to Punta Mita, Mexico. And now, a little over a month later, she’s relaxing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she posted a bikini photo, writing simply, “#Tanning.”

Eric Stonestreet Says His ‘Modern Family’ Character, Cam, Is A ‘Bossy, Fussy Bottom’

Posted in Entertainment

Emmy Award-winning actor Eric Stonestreet dropped by HuffPost Live this week, where he sounded off on his gay “Modern Family” character, Cam Tucker.

Although he is straight, Stonestreet said playing a gay role on such a high-profile TV series has garnered him admiration from male fans.

“I’m a type… Jesse [Tyler Ferguson] and I call Cam a ‘bossy, fussy bottom,’” he joked. “Now, what I get is a lot of guys who come up and want to challenge my sexuality.”

On a more serious note, Stonestreet said that while playing Cam on “Modern Family” for five seasons didn’t change the way he thought about the community, he nonetheless has “more compassion and more empathy” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people than he did before the show.

We Spent Half An Hour Talking To Allison Janney About ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’

Posted in Entertainment

1999 was Allison Janney’s star-making year. It started with her role as a guidance counselor turned erotic-lit writer in “10 Things I Hate About You” and ended with a small spot as Chris Cooper’s withdrawn housewife in Best Picture winner “American Beauty.” In between came her defining role on “The West Wing” and a memorable turn as the trailer-park firecracker Loretta in “Drop Dead Gorgeous.”

When “Drop Dead Gorgeous” opened on July 23, 1999, it was many things: a beauty-pageant satire, a dark teen mockumentary, an A-list ensemble and a gigantic flop. Reviews ranged from mediocre to scathing, and the movie grossed a paltry $10.6 million. Today, it’s nearly impossible to come by. Its shelf life didn’t transfer to the DVD era, meaning it’s unavailable on streaming services and the likeliest way to obtain it is by purchasing a used copy on Amazon for about $40. Yet somehow “Drop Dead Gorgeous” maintains a permanent slot on any list of modern cult classics.

The story of a small Minnesota town’s unyielding obsession with an annual teen beauty pageant whose contestants often meet odd deaths, “Drop Dead Gorgeous” also stars Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Brittany Murphy and a then-unknown Amy Adams aspiring to be crowned the Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess. Kirstie Alley plays Richards’ mother and the pageant’s overbearing organizer, while Ellen Barkin is on hand as Dunst’s mom. (Janney’s Loretta is Barkin’s character’s neighbor and best friend.) Even without such an all-star lineup, “Drop Dead Gorgeous” should have squared nicely with grim teen comedies like “Heathers,” “Jawbreaker,” “Dick,” “Election” and “Sugar & Spice,” which was also written by Lona Williams. (As BuzzFeed points out, Williams changed the writing credit on “Sugar & Spice” to the nonexistent Mandy Nelson after New Line Cinema tamed some of the movie’s darkest elements in the wake of the Columbine shootings.)

It’s Janney and Adams who may have made the biggest splashes in “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” though, even if they had yet to secure the caliber of fame they know today. Adams was praised for her performance, which was also her first big-screen role. It would be another six years before she became a breakout star with “Junebug,” but her character, Leslie Miller, remains a highlight of “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” Adams is currently filming a movie and was unavailable to speak with HuffPost Entertainment, but we spent a delightful half hour gabbing about the film with Janney, who has nothing but fond memories of its creation.

 

Do you find yourself being asked about “Drop Dead Gorgeous” often? It’s such a cult favorite.
It’s the thing that people out of the blue come up to me and say, “Oh my god, I absolutely loved you in …,” and I’m thinking they’re going to say “Mom” or “The West Wing,” but instead it’s “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” I love Loretta! I don’t know what makes a movie a cult movie. I don’t understand what the ingredients are or why. I think it’s the subject matter: a beauty pageant — I think that’s really fascinating to people, and a mockumentary story is fun and the fact that Kirsten Dunst is in it and Amy Adams is in it and Brittany Murphy is in it. There are so many actresses who have resonated with different generations that were in that movie that it continues to stay alive.

Are you asked about it more often than “The West Wing”?
Oh no, it’s not more than “The West Wing” or anything like that, but it is kind of fun when the fans are fanatical about it. My favorite was when I was in an airport. This was a while ago; I would say like 10 years ago. I was sitting in an airport next to these teenagers, and they were quoting lines that Loretta said. It took me a while. I was like, “That sounds familiar.” And then all of a sudden I realize, “Oh, they’re talking about Loretta.” And then I said, “Excuse me, did you know that I played Loretta?” And they started screaming and of course they had a huge photo op afterward. They really didn’t know they were sitting next to me. It was great.

How did the movie enter your life?
If I’m not crazy, I think I had just done “A View From the Bridge” on Broadway with Brittany Murphy. John Papsidera cast “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” because I think Brittany auditioned for the movie and told him he needed to cast me in it, if I’m not crazy. That’s the way I remember it, anyway. And I read the script and of course wanted to be a part of it because I love humor like this. I love slightly off humor, sort of inappropriate humor. It’s just more fun. I loved the character of Loretta; I thought I could definitely play this trailer-trash woman. And I went in and auditioned for [director Michael Patrick Jann] and Lona, and they wanted me for the part, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. My brother lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and I was there for five or six weeks. It was a nice-sized role, but I don’t think they really accommodated my schedule. I was sort of a nobody at the time in the film cachet. But I was happy because I was there with my brother and I got to hang out at the Mall of America more and really get the accent and work on that. I had a lot of fun getting to know Kirsten, or Kiki, as they called her on the movie — I don’t know what they call her now. But they were just really sweet, lovely girls. And then Nora Dunn and, oh God, who else? Oh crap, don’t you have the cast list in front of you?

So many great people. Mindy Sterling! Did you know who else was involved upon taking the part?
I knew Ellen Barkin was in it, and I was terrified. I’d never met her before, and literally the first scene I had to do was a scene in the audience watching Kirstie Alley perform at one of the pageants, which when we shot it, Kirstie Alley had already wrapped, so she wasn’t even in the scene. I wasn’t actually looking at her on the stage. I had to sit next to Ellen and be her best friend immediately. It was overwhelming and I was completely intimidated but fell in love with Ellen. She couldn’t have been nicer or more fun to work with. And then Denise Richards, I think I was in one scene with her. Brittany and I, we weren’t in that many scenes together, but I knew her, so we hung out in St. Paul. Mostly I got to hang out with my brother, which I loved getting to do.

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Ellen Barkin has a beer can welded to her hand for much of the movie. Was that a prosthetic?
I remember a stick, and her arm was held out at an angle with the beer can in it. I honestly don’t remember how we fixed that on her hand or if it was a prosthetic she held on to.

You mastered the accent at the Mall of America? I’m imagining you striking up conversations with random people using Loretta’s voice.
No, I would just hang out there and go into stores and follow people to eavesdrop on them and listen to the accents. I had a recorder and I would surreptitiously try to record people. We had a great dialect coach on the movie, too, Michael Buster. The more time I spent there, the more I soaked in, especially with my brother and his friends. I think I can do the accent better now than I did back then. I’ll just start talking like Loretta sometimes. Like, (Janney breaks out Loretta’s accent) “Oh yeah, are we on ‘Cops’ again?” She’s fun. The one ad-lib I said that I was proud of was “I got some!” That was my one ad-lib because I don’t think I knew how to ad-lib at that point in my career. And then I think I did ad-libs with the bartender in some little side shot of me throwing Goldfish in his mouth. I said, “If you can catch it …” — something like that.

Have you ever discussed the movie with Diane Sawyer?
No. Why?

Kirsten Dunst mentions her in just about every scene.
Oh, that’s right, she does! She wants to be like Diane Sawyer! I never talked about that with her, and I know her husband [director Mike Nichols] very well. That’s so funny, I completely forgot about that reference. She does say that in every single scene. I wonder what she thinks of it. (HuffPost reached out to Sawyer for comment, but she was unavailable.)

“Drop Dead Gorgeous” pokes fun at so many sensitive things: anorexia, mental handicap, class distinctions, religion, gun rights.
Do you think that would get made today?

That’s what I’m wondering. I don’t think so. Did you have any hesitations upon reading the script?
No. None. It’s a mockumentary, so it’s all a spoof. I didn’t think for one minute that it was making fun. But nowadays I don’t know. It’s such a different world now. You can’t say all that. That’s why I was kind of amazed that “Bad Words” came out, because that was pretty politically incorrect everything. I loved being part of Jason Bateman’s movie and I love him and being dangerous with stuff, but of course you don’t want to offend anybody. So I don’t know if it could. I’d like to think it could, but it’s a different world.

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Your makeup and hair is part of what makes Loretta. It’s all about that thick blue eye shadow and bright yellow Las Vegas shirt. Did you have a hand in crafting her image?
I definitely decided that Loretta would have a bad tan that would be a little orangey. Maybe her neck would be a different color than her face. And then we discussed that her idea of glamour might not be everyone’s. She might wear blue eye shadow with bright red lipstick. She definitely has a confused sense of glamour, a trailer park-tinged sense of glamour.

I love that you tie up the Vegas shirt above your belly button.
I think that was a costume-department decision, but I’m sure I went along with it, thinking, of course, that Vegas would be a mecca for Loretta, that she would want to go there. I’m sure she had never been to Vegas. She loves going to the Holiday Inn by the airport. I don’t think Loretta’s been anywhere, and I think Vegas is her idea of heaven.

Was it hard filming your coverage during the audience reaction scenes without the beauty pageant actually unfolding onstage?
It was incredibly difficult. It was my first day working on the movie and I had to sit there and react to things even when I had no idea what they were. The director would say, “You’re looking at this now, you’re looking at that.” We had our dialogue we had to say, and we knew it was in reference to something that Kirstie Alley’s character did, and we knew what it was from reading the script, so we just did it from what we imagined her doing. We had to play and pretend like we knew what was going on.

In a good way, it seems like you’ve sort of circled back to your “Drop Dead Gorgeous” ways with “The Way, Way Back” and “Mom.” Do you have a penchant for middle-aged characters still living like they’re in college?
No, I just respond to the material and if I feel like I can bring the character to life in a believable way, I go for it. Fortunately I haven’t done just one type of part in my own career, but there are always ones that are similar. There’s a little Loretta in Bonnie and in my character from “Way, Way Back.” They’re not the same at all, but they’re very similar. They could be in the same AA meetings.

Did you pay attention at all to the mixed reviews and poor box office?
No, I have a feeling probably the writers and producers and directors all paid attention to that stuff. As far as I was concerned, I was just happy to be involved in the movie. I’ve never really read reviews because I just don’t. Coming from theater, I just know better. So I stayed away from that stuff and just did the movie. I love that people still reference it and come up and say they love Loretta and, “Will you say a line from ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’?” I bet you’d find that the actors remember more of how much fun it was and the producers would be more disappointment in how the movie did.

What do you remember about the movie’s premiere?
I wasn’t really included in the paid ads or any of the promotion for that. They didn’t ask me to go to the premiere of that movie, so unfortunately I didn’t get to go to it. I was not even included in the poster on that. They usually don’t ask you if you’re not included on the poster. Because then they have to pay for you to get there, and that involves money for the studio to pay, so of course they’re not going to want to pay for everyone in the movie to come. I understand that.

Which of the cast members have you kept up with over the years?
Whenever I see Kirsten, we always have a special fondness for each other even though we haven’t worked together since then. But that was a special thing we got to do together, and I got to spend a lot of time with her and she was lovely, so I think she has fond memories of me from that, too. Ellen Barkin, I’ve seen a couple times in New York. I’ve hung out with her after theater things, and it’s great reconnecting with her. And Amy Adams was in “The West Wing.” Brittany Murphy we lost, of course, which was sad because I’d just come from doing Broadway with her and then I did another movie called “David and Lisa” and then went into “Drop Dead Gorgeous.” I did a number of things with her, so that was very sad to lose her as a friend.

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Did you and Amy Adams break out “Drop Dead Gorgeous” lines on the “West Wing” set?
I think at the time, actually, she had to remind me. I didn’t know she was in it. At that time, Amy wasn’t really a known commodity, so she may not have even told me she was in it with me. I don’t remember. But it was kind of amazing to look back and think about who else was in that movie.

Where is Loretta today?
I’d like to get a chance at playing her again. She’s probably made her way to Vegas by now, don’t you think?

Hopefully she and Kirsten Dunst’s character went together.
I would love to do a “Drop Dead Gorgeous 2” in Vegas. There are now beauty pageants for older women, too, I think. That’s going on. So I think Loretta will do beauty pageants for the grandmother set.

This interview has been edited and condensed.