Social Security Mulligans, Hooligans, and Other Do-Overs

Even if you don’t play golf, you may be familiar with the concept of a “mulligan.”  Although strictly speaking it is against any version of the rules of golf, in casual play (typically involving players of lesser ability) a group may agree that a player may replay a poorly hit shot without penalty.  Usually the opportunity for a mulligan is limited to the first shot on the first tee, the theory being that the player might have rushed to the golf course with no chance to warm up or practice, and thus the first shot is considered compensation for having arrived in a lather without leaving time to prepare.  I once played with a group that allowed each player a “hooligan” – best described as a “floating mulligan” – meaning that one poorly hit shot could be replayed without penalty at any time during the round.

The Granddaddy of All Hooligans.  Under the Social Security system, there used to be a rule that allowed you to begin receiving your benefits at age 62-1[1], continue receiving them for nearly 8 years and then, just before you reached age 70, you could decide to repay all the benefits you had received with no interest and start all over at age 70 with maximum benefits.  But after articles began appearing in the financial and popular media touting “interest-free loans from the government,” the SSA decided in December 2010 to shut down this opportunity.   (more…)