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Lifestyles

September 3, 2011

Senior Scene: No need to visit the office to file for retirement benefits

Is it me or did this summer just fly by? I cannot believe it is September already!

While the days get shorter and the weather gets chillier, many of you may start to think about retiring or reducing your hours of work. December and January seem to be very popular months to retire. If you plan to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits in January 2012, we recommend you apply for your benefits any time between now and December.

If the prospect of traveling to an office does not appeal to you, then save yourself a trip and consider the advantages of applying online for Social Security retirement benefits. The Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov makes the process easy and convenient.

In most cases, once you submit your online application electronically, you are all set. There are no additional forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases where we need additional information, a Social Security representative will contact you.

You can complete your application for retirement benefits from the comfort of your home or office in as little as 15 minutes. Then you can celebrate 2012 by receiving your first Social Security payment on time. If you are not quite ready to retire but are thinking about doing so in the near future, you may want to visit Social Security's website to use our convenient and informative retirement planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. Here you can find out just how close you are to meeting your financial goals and then "bookmark" the website to file for retirement benefits whenever you are ready.

We encourage people at any stage in their working career to use the Retirement Estimator for an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. Find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

If you are still not convinced that filing online is the way to go, but you want to file an application for retirement benefits, give us a call. We will schedule an appointment for you to talk to a Social Security claims representative, either in person or over the phone, to discuss your options.

Just remember, it is a busy time of year, so scheduling an appointment ahead of time will make things easier for everyone.

Simply call our national toll-free number at (800) 772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or the local Oneonta office at (877) 628-6581 between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Here are some facts to consider _ the annual earnings limit for someone under full retirement age, or FRA, is $14,160. For every two dollars you earn over the limit, Social Security will withhold one dollar of your benefit. The year you reach FRA (age 66 for those born between Jan. 2, 1943, and Jan. 1, 1955), your earnings limit jumps to $37,680, withholding a dollar for every three you earn over that amount. That limit only applies to the months prior to the month you reach full retirement age. Therefore, if you are turning 66 in 2012, you may be eligible for some or all of your Social Security payments for the year, even if you are working full time.

So even though it is sad to say goodbye to summer, look at the new and exciting options you may have, right around the corner.

What are you waiting for? Go to www.socialsecurity.gov and start planning.

tracey L. weaver is district manager of the Oneonta office of the Social Security Administration.

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