Monday, December 13, 2010

Social Security's Top 25 Questions & Answers

AARP is out with a special insert in its December bulletin listing the Top 25 Questions & Answers on Social Security. With 60 million baby boomers getting ready to retire over the next 10 years, Social Security benefits have become the "heart of retirement planning for many," says AARP. That's because so few of us have really spent much time thinking about retirement planning or savings. Whether you've saved or not, it's best to find out where you stand with Social Security, even if your not ready to retire or even near retirement.
That's because for many Social Security benefits make up as much as 90 to 100 percent of their income in old age. First a few facts:
- 53.6 million American already receive Social Security benefits.
- The average monthly payment is $1,172 or just over $14,000 a year.
- An estimated 24 percent of widows rely on Social Security for ALL their income.
- For 40 percent of single people (men and women), Social Security represents 90 percent of their income.
- For 20 percent of married couples, Social Security represents 90 percent of their income.
Social Security, established in the 1930s, was never meant to be the only money people were to rely on in their old age. But here's the shocker, according to the AARP supplement: Nearly half of American workers 55 and older have saved less than $50,000 for retirement.
First question on the Top 25 list::
I am about to turn 62 and plan to file for Social Security. How do I get started?
Answer: You should apply three months before you want to start collecting. Sign up at or call 800-772-1213. Be ready with your Social Security card number, your birth certificate, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status; military discharge papers, if you served before 1968; and last year's W-2 tax form or tax return if you're self-employed.
Question No. 9: My man and I have lived together for over seven years. If he dies, can I collect HIS Social Security benefits? Answer: Yes, if your state recognizes your common-law marriages, then you'll likely be elegible for survivor benefits. You'll need evidence such as rent or mortgage receipts, sworn statements or insurance policies. For the rest of the questions and answers, click here.
For answers at Social Security's Web site, go to
More from AARP at