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Those of us who have worked for a number of years may find ourselves a bit confused about when we are eligible for social security, and when it is advisable for us to begin collecting our benefits. Here is a quick primer that should allay any confusion:

Age considerations: You can start collecting benefits as early as age 62. Or, you can wait until your full retirement age. The government defines full retirement age as some point after age 65—all the way up to age 67 for those born after 1959. If you were born before 1951, you’ve already reached age 66 and full retirement age. If you choose to take Social Security early (before full retirement age) your benefits will be reduced. To determine how much less you will receive, refer to the official calculators provided by the Social Security Administration.

Employment: If you have not reached full retirement age, but are still employed, your benefits will most likely be reduced. You are allowed to earn up to $17,640 before your benefits will be reduced. Then, $1 will be deducted for every for every $2 you earn above the limit. However, if you accept your benefits starting at full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

Apply: SSA asks that you begin the application process at the beginning of the year you will reach full retirement age. The application process can be completed completely online. You may also apply by telephone at 1-800-772-1213. Additionally, you can apply in person at a Social Security office. In Baton Rouge, 5455 Bankers Ave., or 4332 Harding Blvd. Other services provided at the offices include replacement Social Security cards, temporary Social Security cards, and changing your name on your Social Security card.

Online Services: The Social Security Administration has a comprehensive website that answers almost every question you may have. There you will find full information on how to schedule an appointment, fraud prevention, Medicare, disability, spousal benefits and more. You will also be able to establish an account that will enable you to find out your projected benefits upon retirement. Even if retirement is still way in the future for you, it is a great idea to spend some time on the website just to familiarize yourself with the program and gain an understanding of the benefits for which you will qualify.

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