By Bob Trotter Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI
YOUR WINNING RETIREMENT GAME PLAN
This month, a driver will take the checkered flag at the Daytona 500, skiers will stand atop the podium at the World Alpine SkiChampionships in Vail, Colo., and a football team will win Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. The sports are different, but the winners share a common trait—years of commitment to their plans.
To win the retirement game, you also need commitment and a plan. For years, you’ve worked hard and paid into Social Security.. Whether you’re new to the workforce or getting ready to cross your own career finish line, you’ll want to open a my Social Security account to see how your hard work is paying off. You can create or access your account at www.socialsecurity. gov/myaccount. You can use it to verify your earnings history, get estimates of your future Social Security benefits, and more. It’s the place to get the information you need to put together your own winning game plan.
A good NASCAR pit crew keeps its driver on the track, and our Retirement Estimator can do the same for your retirement plan. The Estimator offers an instant and tailored estimate of your future Social Security benefits based on your earnings record. You can plug in different anticipated yearly earnings to discover different retirement options and learn how your benefits could increase if you work longer. Give the Retirement Estimator a test drive today at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Once you’ve come of age to retire—or if you’re just in the planning phase—our quick and convenient online services are in place at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. In as little as 15 minutes, you can speed through our online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required.
Fine-tune your game plan. Take advantage of our services and resources at www.socialsecurity.gov to optimize your retirement.
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A DAY DEDICATED TO THE NEW YOU
Proudly displaying your new last name on a marriage certificate is only the first step in legally changing your name. Now that the wedding and honeymoon are over, you need to tell Social Security so you can get a corrected Social Security card.
February 18 is “Get Another Name Day.” It’s the perfect day for you to get a replacement, corrected, or original Social Security card—but only if you really need one. Of course, you can do this any time, but you should do it as soon as possible after your name changes.
If you have changed your name, whether due to marriage, divorce, or for another reason, the way to change your name with Social Security is to apply for a corrected Social Security card. This ensures that your legal name matches our records, thus avoiding possible problems in the future, such as a delay in obtaining any federal tax refund owed or not getting full Social Security credit for all your earnings.
There are a number of other reasons you may want to get a Social Security card: starting a new job, verifying eligibility for government services, opening a bank account, obtaining medical coverage, filing taxes, and legally changing your name. In most cases, unless an employer or other entity specifically requests to see your card, all they really need is your number. But, be cautious when sharing your Social Security number. People who commit fraud or want to steal your identity will often ask for your Social Security number. Always verify the identity of anyone who is asking, whether you’re online, on the phone, or face-to- face.
If you just had a baby, he or she will need a Social Security number. The main reason is to show your child’s dependent status on your tax return. In most cases, you apply for your newborn’s Social Security card and number, as well as the baby’s birth certificate, in the hospital.
If you need a new, replacement, or corrected Social Security card, you can find all the details at www.socialsecurity. gov/ssnumber, including the “Learn What Documents You Need” page, which lists the specific documents we accept as proof of age, identity, and citizenship. Each situation is unique, but in most cases, you simply need to print, complete, and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (originals or certified copies only).
After you receive your Social Security card, don’t carry it with you. To reduce your risk of identity theft, keep your card in a safe place with your other important papers.
Learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
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FOLLOW THE GROUNDHOG’S EXAMPLE: STAY INDOORS
Every year, on February 2, we wait to see if Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, will predict six more weeks of winter. Huge crowds have waited for Phil’s prediction each year since 1886. For Phil, seeing his shadow predicts six more weeks of winter-like weather. More often than not, he sees his shadow and goes back inside.
You, too, can remain out of the cold, and save time and money at the same time, by using our secure online service, my Social Security, to conduct Social Security-related business from the warmth of your own comfortable home.
• Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year; • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you’re still working; • Get an instant letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and • Manage your benefits. Setting up your account is quick, secure, and easy. Set it up during the cold weather, while you’re waiting for spring.
Punxsutawney Phil usually predicts more wintery weather, and according to the Groundhog Day event organizers, he is accurate 75 to 90 percent of the time. And let’s face it, spring doesn’t really start for seven weeks after Phil’s time in the spotlight each year.
Whatever the weather, you can expect to be more comfortable than Punxsutawney Phil by using my Social Security. Follow the groundhog’s example and stay inside!
From the warmth and comfort of your own home, visit www.socialsecurity.gov to learn about all the services we provide online.
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WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE
February is the month when we celebrate love and friendship. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also declared February as American Heart Month to bring awareness to the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States: heart disease.
We encourage you to wear red all month to promote cardiovascular disease prevention.
Just as the heart is vital to our emotional and physical well-being, Social Security disability benefits are often a vital lifeline for people who are unable to work due to severe disabilities—whether heart-related or not.
There are numerous ways to protect our hearts, including eating well, exercising, and not smoking. We get checkups, and make sure to keep our cholesterol down.
However, sometimes these measures aren’t enough. In fact, disability will affect one in four of today’s 20 year-olds before reaching retirement age. The Social Security disability program excels in providing financial help to people when they need it most—help they earned by paying Social Security taxes on their earnings or as dependents of someone who paid Social Security taxes.
Social Security pays benefits to covered people who can’t work and whose medical condition meets the strict definition of disabilty under the Social Security Act. A person is considered disabled under this definition if he or she cannot work due to a severe medical condition that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or result in death. The person's medical condition must prevent him or her from doing work that he or she did in the past, and it must prevent the person from adjusting to other work based on their age, education, and experience. You can find all the information you need about eligibility and benefits available to you by reading our publication, Disability Benefits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
If you are disabled, and think you are eligible to receive disability benefits, you will need to complete an application for Social Security benefits. It’s easy to apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
We also invite you to visit our Faces and Facts of Disability website to watch and read stories about people who have truly benefited from Social Security’s disability program and to get the facts about this very important program. Helping people is at the heart of what we do. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.
Remember your first love? For years, the two of you came to the same place—a cafeteria or office or train car. At first, you sat across from each other, but as the time passed, you edged closer. You stared into each other’s eyes. A warm feeling developed in your chest and your lips curved into a coy smile. Soon, you got a smile in return.
International Flirting Week, February 16 to 22, is a reminder that flirting can be fun. But you need to act to bring about what you want in life. That’s true about love—and your retirement.
Chances are you’ve been flirting with the idea of retirement for years. All the while, your retirement has been watching you, waiting for you to make a move. All you need to do is take notice.
When you decide to retire, the easiest and most convenient way to make your move is to visit our website, www.socialsecurity. gov, to apply for retirement benefits. You can do it right from the comfort of your home. You can apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to send; after you submit your electronic application, you're done!
Have your bank account information handy, so you can receive your payments electronically. Electronic payment of federal benefits is now mandatory with few exceptions. Still not quite ready to take that next step and commit? If you’re still just flirting with retirement, check out our Retirement Estimator, where you can get instant, personalized estimates of your future retirement benefits. Everybody’s doing it at www. socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Spend a little time with our Retirement Estimator, and you may decide it’s time to make a commitment after all. Learn more about retirement by reading our publications, Retirement Benefits and When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, both available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. You’ll have to look elsewhere for the book of love, but we’ve got the book of retirement covered. Stop flirting with your retirement future and check out all our retirement planning tools and services at www.socialsecurity.gov.