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New to Social Security? Here's What You Should Know About Your Benefits

Find helpful information on when you'll receive checks, how the system works and more

Your Social Security Mailbox questions answered

New to Social Security benefits? Get to know basics on how the system works. — Adam Voorhes

En español | Q: I am new to Social Security and have some questions about how the system works. At what point in the month will I get my Social Security payment?

A: Social Security uses a birthday system to decide when to pay your retirement benefits.

If your birthday falls on the 1st to 10th of the month, Social Security will pay benefits on the second Wednesday of the month. If your birthday is from the 11th to the 20th, payment is on the third Wednesday. And if your birthday is from the 21st to the 31st, payment is on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

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People who are newly joining Social Security also should know that retiree benefits are paid the month after they are accrued. If you become eligible for your first benefit for the month of October, Social Security will pay your October benefit in November.

To see when benefits will be paid, go to Social Security's website and search for "payment dates."

Q: What happens if Social Security pays me too much and wants to take the money back?

A: If Social Security makes a mistake and overpays you, there are several ways for you and the agency to straighten out your account. You can pay back the money by mail, using a check, money order or credit card. The repayment can be mailed to the Social Security Administration, P.O. Box 3430, Philadelphia, Pa. 19122-2992. You can also make a payment in person at a Social Security office.

But don't do your own calculation. If you didn't receive a notification from Social Security about an overpayment, call to make sure you and the agency agree on how much is owed and how it will be repaid. For questions about overpayments, call 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).

You should be aware that Social Security can also get the money back by withholding your monthly check until the overpayment is repaid in full. While Social Security works hard to collect on overpayments, it also can be flexible. The agency's website says "if paying back the money would be a hardship, we might accept installment payments or offer a compromise settlement."

Next page: Does bad credit or disability affect your benefits? »

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