March 5, 2014

YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY Rock Island, Illinois Office

VitalChristina
By Cristina Vital
Manager
Rock Island Social Security office

BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH (AND EVERY DAY)

“Beware the Ides of March,” said the soothsayer to Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar. We at Social Security recommend you beware not only the Ides of March, but also every day—and every time—you go on the Internet. Identity theft and cyber-crimes are among the fastest-growing crimes in America.

Today’s savvy thieves have added identity to the list of things they can rob. Their targets are people, who use the Internet, and by the time, you realize you have been robbed; Brutus may already have done his damage and escaped.

“Et tu, Brute?” Caesar said as his good friend Brutus betrayed him. Even webpages and online sources that appear friendly and trustworthy could be plotting against you. This is why you should protect your personally identifiable information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth and mother’s maiden name. Never give this information out in an email or fill it in on a website asking for it, unless you are sure that you know and trust the source. Even then, be cautious. That said, if you conduct business on www.socialsecurity.gov, there is no need to worry. Our online transactions are secure and convenient. You are protected when you are on our website.

If you think you have been the victim of an online Brutus, do not simply tear your toga. You should contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/identitytheft. On the other hand, you can call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

There will continue to be those who believe it will not happen to them. Moreover, there will continue to be victims. “The Ides of March have come,” Caesar said, doubting the prophecy that he would become a victim on March 15.

“Aye, Caesar,” the soothsayer replied, “but not gone.”

Sure, you may have used the Internet for years and may consider yourself savvy. Nevertheless, there is always tomorrow for a Brutus to strike. When it comes to providing personal information on the Internet, treat every day as though it is the Ides of March…unless you are in a secure place that you trust, like www.socialsecurity.gov. After all, on the Ides of March and every day of the year, Security is our middle name—literally.

Learn more about identity theft by reading our online publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

IN IDITAROD AND RETIREMENT, PREP IS KEY

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, held each March in Alaska, is one of the harshest, most challenging races known to man (or dog). Mushers embark on a race from Anchorage to Nome that takes between 9 and 15 days. Contestants bear sub-zero temperatures with gale-force winds that can cause wind chills as low as negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit! It takes endurance, preparation, and careful planning to make it from start to finish.

The same can be said for your race toward retirement and Social Security. No one would hit the trail without being ready for the challenges. Similarly, no worker today should be navigating toward retirement without a little bit of preparing, planning, and stick-to-itiveness. Choosing your steps is as important as selecting the right sled dogs. Your first step in planning for a comfortable retirement is to look at your Social Security Statement, which you can do online easily with a my Social Security account. The online Statement is easy to use and provides estimates you should consider in planning for your retirement. It provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool. Your Statement allows you to review and ensure your earnings are accurately posted to your Social Security record. This feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over your lifetime. If the information is incorrect, or you have earnings missing from your record, you may not receive all of the benefits to which you are entitled in the future. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to set up a my Social Security account and get started.

Before heading into the snowy terrain, you want to make sure you have prepared for a number of different possible obstacles on the trail. For retirement planning, you will want to test out the Retirement Estimator to see how changes in your income, retirement age, and other variables may change your overall plan. Use our Retirement Estimator, where you can get a personalized, instant estimate of your future retirement benefits using different retirement ages and scenarios. Visit the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Out in the cold, you will be thankful for the provisions you have brought along. In retirement, you will understand why it was so important for you to save early on. The sooner you begin your financial planning, the better off you will be. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of the average worker’s pre-retirement earnings, but most financial advisors say that you will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. You also will need other savings, investments, pensions or retirement accounts to make sure you have financial security to live comfortably when you retire. Visit the Ballpark Estimator for tips to help you save. You will find it at www.choosetosave.org/ballpark.

Use our online library of publications as your trail map or guidebook to help you when it comes to planning for
retirement. Check out When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits. It and many other useful publications can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

As you mush, mush, mush toward retirement; remember that it is not about the destination, but all about the journey. Spending a little time to prepare along the way will make all the difference when you cross the finish line into retirement.

Filed Under: Finance, Retirement