3 things you should tackle on your Social Security benefits before retirement

The average Social Security retirement check was recently $1,417, and the maximum check topped out at $3,698. That's a big difference, and if you'd like your own Social Security benefits to be closer to the latter than the former, read on – because there are ways to get more out of the program.

Below are three smart Social Security moves you should keep in mind as you plan for your future financial security.

No. 1: Set up a 'my Social Security' account

First off, no matter how close you are to retirement, go to the Social Security website and set up a "my Social Security" account. By doing so, you can find out what you can expect to receive from Social Security in the future based on the records of your earnings. You can do much more with the account, too, such as change your address, review the Social Security Administration (SSA) record of your past earnings to make sure they're correct, check the status of your application for benefits, request a replacement Social Security card (if you meet certain criteria), request a replacement Medicare card, start or change the direct depositing of your benefit payments, and get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S form for tax purposes.

Another benefit of setting up your account with the SSA now is that you might be doing it before an identity thief does. Fraudsters opening accounts in other people's names is an increasingly common scam and it can cause a lot of headaches for you if you fall victim. So set up that account now.

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