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What should I know about Social Security benefits?

Millions of Americans rely on the money they receive from their Social Security retirement benefits each month. However, most Americans are not completely familiar with all the details and rules that relate to Social Security. Considering how crucial this stream of income is for one's livelihood, you definitely need to familiarize yourself with the basics.

For example, many workers mistakenly believe that the retirement age to begin receiving full Social Security benefits is 65. However, for people who were born between the years of 1943 and 1954, their retirement age to begin receiving full benefits is actually 66. Meanwhile, for those who are born later, the actual age will be 67. In most cases, Social Security recipients will require 10 full years of working if they want to qualify for retirement benefits. Those benefits will be determined by the amount paid into the Social Security program during the worker's 35 highest income earning years.

The maximum level of Social Security benefits an individual will qualify for also depends on the age at which you retire. For example, if you retire at your full retirement age of 66 or 67 in 2015, you might be able to qualify for a maximum benefit of $2,663 -- depending on how much you paid into the system during your 35 highest earning years.

You may also wish to begin taking your Social Security early at 62 of age, but if you do this, you will suffer from a 30 percent reduced retirement benefit -- and this reduction will be permanent. Conversely, if you choose to wait until the age of 70 to receive your Social Security benefits, you can qualify for an 8 percent increase in benefits for each year that you wait.

Knowing these details can be very helpful to get the most out of the Social Security program. Before making any decisions about Social Security, be sure to know all your legal rights and options as they apply to your unique financial and personal situation.

Source: CNBC, "Video about social security facts you should know," July 22, 2015

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