If you haven't signed up for an online personal Social Security information account at SocialSecurity.gov/MyAccount, take the time to do it now. If you are 18 or older and have worked the number of years it takes to qualify, it will give you an immediate estimate of the amount of Social Security that you will be entitled to at ages 62, 66 and 70, as well as the amount you and your family would receive if you were disabled. Having that information is a good retirement planning starting point.
If you're close to receiving Social Security or already retired and receiving payments, you'll be able to submit a request for a benefit verification letter. The benefit verification letter can serve as proof of income if you're buying a house or renting one or buying a car. It also proves current Medicare coverage, retirement or disability status and even provides proof of age.
You can get one of these letters without having to go down to the Social Security office and wait in line or call the office and wait on hold. Being able to avoid both of these circumstances is a real blessing.
Like everything else about Social Security, the process isn't simple. You have to pick a username and password that are more complicated than those I usually use, and you have to update it every six months. I found writing it down and putting it in a safe place the only possible way I could remember it. Given the bad things that can happen when someone unauthorized gets hold of your Social Security number, I shouldn't be complaining.