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Boxwood MazeIf you’re like most people at a certain life stage, you probably have more questions than answers when it comes to navigating the Social Security maze.

The good news is that whatever your question, the odds are that someone else has asked it already.

AARP has logged more than 11,000 questions about Social Security – and now there is an online tool to give you the answers on topics relevant for you.

Curious how your retirement benefit is calculated? Would you like to know more about benefits for spouses – or an ex-spouse? Wonder how Social Security decides when to pay a cost-of-living adjustment? AARP’s new Social Security Q&A Tool has answers on these topics and a multitude of other questions.

The interactive tool is organized by topic. Go to Q&A Tool and begin typing in the search term you’re interested in, then select the one you want. Click to submit and in seconds, your screen will display relevant questions and links to answers.

When I searched under “eligibility,” 12 questions and answers popped up on a range of issues, including how long you have to work to claim benefits, how soon a newly married person might qualify for a spousal benefit, and others.

When I searched under “apply,” the AARP tool produced six questions and answers, covering how to file for benefits, how soon your payment will arrive, Supplemental Security Income and other matters.

The new tool isn’t the last word on every query about Social Security. If you have an unusual or tricky personal issue, you should contact the Social Security Administration or go to www.socialsecurity.gov. Another source of information is a book I wrote, “Social Security for Dummies.”

Why does this  topic matter? Many people don’t realize that mistakes and misunderstandings could cost you thousands of dollars over a lifetime. One way or another, it makes sense to do your homework on this important topic. And with online tools making it easier than ever, there is no reason not to. ###

Contemplating retirement and ready to roll up your sleeves on Social Security and more? Explore AARP’s five-step Ready for Retirement resource center

Photo by entr’acte courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons