1. You must apply for
benefits. Social Security payments
arenít automatically received when you reach
full retirement age. You can apply at the local
Social Security office, online at
www.socialsecurity.gov or by phoning
1-800-772-1213. You should contact the Social
Security Administration about three months
before you want to collect benefits, says Joy
Chang, 54, communications director for the
Seattle region of administration.
2. You wonít receive
full benefits at age 65. The age at
which full benefits are payable is increasing
gradually until it reaches 66 in 2009 and 67 in
3. You need to decide
whatís the right time to start receiving
benefits. This is tricky, especially for a
married couple. Your retirement benefits can
start at age 62. However, youíll receive a
benefit amount that is less for the rest of your
life than what youíd receive if you waited until
your full retirement age or if you worked beyond
it. If you work or donít take your benefits
until age 70, youíll receive extra credits and
your ongoing benefit will be larger.
Social Security wonít tell
you when to begin getting benefits, Chang says.
However, an online benefits calculator can help
you weigh the circumstances, she says. If youíre
married, your retirement benefit could be
affected by your spouseís account, so you need
to get information from the administration on
those options, Chang adds.
4. You need to
realize that Social Security benefits
wonít provide your full retirement costs.
Savings, investments and a pension are ways you
can add to your retirement income. Start
planning and saving early, she says.
5. You need to review
your annual Social Security statement when itís
received to make sure there arenít errors in
reported wages. ďItís important to check,Ē says
Chang. An employer may have failed to report
part of your income or to use the correct Social
Security number. If youíre self-employed, a
mistake could have been made in your tax return.
6. You need to know
that the amount of money that you can make that
will affect your benefits only applies if you
retire early. After you reach full retirement
age, there are no limits on what you can earn.
7. You may be paying
income taxes on your Social Security
benefits, if you have other taxable income from
wages, self-employment, interest or dividends.
However, you wonít be paying federal income tax
on more than 85 percent of your social Security
benefits based on Internal Revenue Service
8. Youíll likely need
a Medigap policy to fill in payments
Medicare doesnít pay. Private health insurance
plans (Medicare Advantage) provide Medigap
information on Medicare coverage, go to
on SeniorArk, or youíll need to
contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
9. You need to apply
for Medicare, Part A, at age 65, if you
are still working. It provides hospital
coverage, and you can get it for no cost. Most
people donít sign up for Part B, outpatient
health care expenses including doctor fees, in
this situation, because their work insurance is
likely to provide better coverage.
10. Medicare, Part D,
pays for prescription drugs only, and
you donít get it through the Social Security
office. Itís purchased through private