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Social Security Cheat Sheet: Understand Your Benefits

Your comprehensive guide to understanding Social Security benefits.

a magnifying glass over a pile of $20 bills
Learn everything you need to know about Social Security.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Social Security can be a complex topic, and understanding your Social Security benefits can be a difficult feat. If you're overwhelmed by the prospect of filing your tax return or if you're concerned about the news that Social Security benefits could decrease by 20% in less than ten years, we're here to help explain these confusing topics in a simple fashion. 

To guide you through some of the ins and outs of Social Security -- from what you need to know for tax season, to when you should look for your checks -- CNET has compiled this cheat sheet, which is regularly updated so you can stay on top of the latest details.

It's tax season. What do I need to know for my Social Security benefits? 

Tax season is upon us. The final day to submit your tax return is Tuesday, April 18. Yes, it seems like you've got all the time in the world to file your return, but that deadline will sneakily creep up on you. Get your tax questions answered and file that return ASAP to avoid last-minute stress. 

When will I get my Social Security check?

Whether you're a new Social Security beneficiary or you've been receiving it for decades, knowing when your check will arrive each month is a must. Your payment date depends on your birthday and when you started receiving benefits. Each month, these stories are updated to reflect the exact dates for when the Social Security Administration will disburse your payment.

Stimulus money payments

Find out how much money you'll get next year.

James Martin/CNET

How to apply for benefits

There are several different types of benefits you can receive from the Social Security Administration and other federal programs. Here's what they are and how to apply.

I won't collect Social Security benefits for years. What should I know now?

Preparing for Social Security is important, regardless of how close you are to retirement. But it's never too early to learn about how your benefits will work once you're ready to begin collecting them. 

Additional Social Security information that's important to know

Aside from Social Security benefits, knowing important information about your Social Security number and card can help prevent future mishaps. For instance, if you need a replacement Social Security card or need to know who it's OK to share your SSN with, we can help.

How is Medicare related to Social Security?

Medicare insurance in the US is for those age 65 or older, or certain people with disabilities. The program is designed to help with the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs. Whether you receive it now or plan to in the future, it's good to brush up on how it works.

For additional health insurance information, here's what to know about Affordable Care Act health plans and how to save on health care if you don't have insurance.