Although many older Americans will receive a Social Security check once they are at least 62+, each person has unique concerns about how to best use the benefit to their maximum advantage. At AARP, we often hear questions like, "How big will my wife's Social Security check be if I die?" or "When should I collect Social Security?" We know how important it is that you get the right information for your situation.
As such, we've wrestled with how to provide an interactive tool, www.aarp.org/ssqa, that can answer your individual Social Security questions quickly and easily, with virtually no wait (unless you count waiting for the webpage to load).
Our Social Security Tool addresses Social Security-related questions that have been submitted to AARP's financial security experts through phone calls, letters, emails and live "ask-the-experts" webinars over a number of years. We've received and answered more than 11,000 questions so far, and despite the sheer volume of questions, when we analyzed and catalogued them, we found that a few basic questions were being asked with frequency. They included:
• What is the best age to claim Social Security? Delaying to 70 will get you the most money possible but you want to factor in your health and potential longevity when making that decision.
• What happens if I claim Social Security and then keep working? If you claim before your full retirement age, some of your benefits will be withheld if you make more than $14,640.
• What happens to my wife's survivor benefits if I claim Social Security early? Her survivor benefits will be reduced.
• I was married for 25 years and stayed home to raise the kids. Now that my husband is remarried, will I have to split his Social Security benefits with his new wife? No.
• What's the maximum monthly Social Security benefit? Right now, it's $2,513.
Currently, the tool will ask a user to choose a keyword that best matches their question; such as the words underlined in the questions above. The tool will then provide a selection of probable answers from our experts. If none of those answers address your question, the tool will allow you to email the question to our experts. You should get an answer within a couple of weeks, depending on the volume of questions we receive.
The first iteration of the tool launched in early September. But, like most of us, this oracle will get smarter with age. We'll add new user questions to the database, improve the search functionality, and even share which frequently asked questions are most popular among AARP.org users.
The more people who use the tool, the more useful the tool will become - so share it with your friends, post it on Facebook and Twitter, and join us for our next Social Security webinar by registering at www.aarp.org/moneywebinars to learn more.