August 7 is National Lighthouse Day. The day honors and commemorates lighthouses, which for centuries have served as beacons of light to guide ships safely through dark and uncertain waters.
August 21 is National Senior Citizen Day, which recognizes the contributions senior citizens make in communities across the nation.
Social Security offers a bright beacon of light for seniors and younger captains who navigate the waters of retirement planning. In fact, we have a few lighthouses that can illuminate the way to a happy retirement.
Lighthouse One: The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits. Just enter some basic information and the Estimator will use information on your Social Security record, along with what you input, to give you a benefit estimate on the spot. You also can experiment with different scenarios, such as changing your future earnings and retirement date. Check it out in English at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator or in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov/calculator.
Lighthouse Two: my Social Security is an online account that allows you quick access to your personal Social Security information. During your working years, once you create your online account, you can use my Social Security to view your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the future retirement, disability, and survivor benefits you and your family may receive. If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can sign into your account to view, save, and print your benefit verification letter, check your benefit payment information, and when necessary, change your address and phone number in our records. You also can start or change your direct deposit information. Check it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Lighthouse Three: The online Benefit Application is the most convenient way to apply for Social Security retirement and spouse's benefits. You can apply from the comfort of your home - it's fast, easy, and secure. It's so easy, in fact, it can take you as little as 15 minutes to apply online. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. Join the millions that have already applied online. Try it out when you're ready to retire or just want to learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/retirement.htm.
You'll find a host of other lighthouses at www.socialsecurity.gov to ensure your retirement plans don't go off course. For example, we offer an online library of topical publications you can read or listen to, and hundreds of frequently asked questions.
Whether you're a new captain learning how to navigate the waters of financial planning, or a salty sea dog ready for retirement, Social Security's online lighthouses are here to make sure you don't crash on the jagged sea rocks of procrastination or shallow straights of poor planning. The beacon is guiding you to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Gregory Holmes is the director of the Social Security office in Chattanooga.