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10 Things You Should Know About Social Security

Your most frequently asked questions answered

What’s the maximum monthly Social Security benefit?
For a worker retiring in 2013 at the full retirement age of 66, the highest monthly amount is $2,533. In December 2012, the average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,261.

Can I receive Social Security benefits based on the earnings of a former spouse? Yes, as long as you were married for 10 years and you aren't remarried. If so, you're eligible to claim Social Security benefits under your ex-spouse's earnings if they turn out to be higher than your own.

How can I boost the amount of my Social Security check? Bottom line: The longer you wait to start collecting after you become eligible at 62, the higher the amount you will receive. For each year you delay, your Social Security benefits will increase between 7 percent and 8 percent annually up to age 70, depending on your year of birth. (See for yourself: Try the AARP Social Security Benefits Calculator.)

How should I receive my Social Security payments? Your best bet is to sign up for direct deposit into your bank account. Paper checks can get lost in the mail. The Department of Treasury did away with paper checks in March of 2013 in favor of direct deposit and debit cards.

When someone dies, how does the Social Security Administration know? The SSA receives reports of beneficiary deaths from family members, funeral homes and other government agencies. You should inform the SSA as soon as possible when a person dies.

Originally published: August 2010. Updated August 2013

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