Social Security: Resources for Getting Started

Social Security: Resources for Getting StartedWhen should you start collecting Social Security benefits? What is SSI? Is the program going to go bankrupt? What exactly is Social Security anyway?

Every American approaching retirement finds themselves grappling with these questions. Unfortunately, even figuring out the basics of Social Security is no easy task.

However, there are a number of useful resources on the Internet that can help. Here are 10 of our favorites:

What Is Social Security?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) website is a bit of a beast to navigate, but if you dig around you’ll discover some useful information and tools. If you find yourself getting lost, our tip is to try this topics page, which organizes information by theme.

To get started, this rundown of frequently asked questions on the SSA site provides some good background on the program and debunks some common myths.

If you’re looking for an even clearer explanation of what Social Security actually is, this article by CNBC does a great job of covering the basics. This piece by About.com is another good resource.

When to Should You Start Receiving Benefits?

Once you understand how Social Security works, the obvious next question is: when will I begin receiving benefits? The answer isn’t simple, since each individual can elect when to start their payments.

This overview on the Social Security Administration website explains some of pros and cons of receiving benefits at different ages and this chart helps show what reduced payments look like if you begin early.

If you’re still not sure when to start receiving benefits, this AARP calculator can help you figure out what makes the most sense. However, before you make a final decision make sure to give this New York Times article a read since it explains some of the limitations of the calculator.

What Is SSI?

As you dive deeper into the murky world of Social Security you’ll probably come across references to Supplemental Security Income (SSI). What is SSI? In essence it’s a stipend for the aged, blind and disabled who have little or no income. This page on the Social Security Administration’s website gives a basic overview

Is Social Security Going to Go Bankrupt? Are My Benefits Safe?

The financial health of the Social Security program is a subject of frequent and heated political debate. There are a host of partisan websites and think-tanks with differing accounts of what is wrong with the system and how it should be fixed.

If you’re looking for an unbiased take on the finances of the program, check out this page published by Just Facts. It’s a little dry, but it’ll give you a good sense of the basic numbers.

Photo by DonkeyHotey via Flickr.