Social Security Cheat Sheet: What You Need to Know About Benefits, Checks and Taxes

Take a deep dive into all the details of Social Security and related benefits programs.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Nina Raemont Writer
A recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, Nina started at CNET writing breaking news stories before shifting to covering Security Security and other government benefit programs. In her spare time, she's in her kitchen, trying a new baking recipe.
Katie Teague
Nina Raemont
3 min read
a photo of a Social Security card on top of an assorted collection of US paper money bills

In 2024, the Social Security Administration provides benefits to about 68 million people each month.

Richard Stephen/Getty Images

Social Security -- a shorthand term for Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) -- is a US federal government program that provides money for retirement benefits, survivor benefits and income for disabled people. Established in 1935 by the Social Security Act and President Franklin Roosevelt, the program has been distributing benefits for more than 84 years.

The Social Security Administration sends out batches of payments every month to senior citizens, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients and people who receive Supplemental Security Income. But if you receive more than one of these payments, it can get tricky. And if you've never gotten Social Security benefits before, you might have a lot of questions.

To guide you through some of the ins and outs of Social Security -- from what you need to know before you retire to when your money will arrive -- CNET has compiled this cheat sheet so you can learn all the details.

When will I receive my Social Security checks?

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

Stimulus money payments

Knowing when your Social Security check will arrive is essential for budgeting.

James Martin/CNET

How do I apply for Social Security benefits?

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

What should I know about Social Security if I'm not retiring soon?

Preparing for Social Security is important, regardless of how close you are to retirement. It's never too early to learn about how your benefits will work once you're ready to begin collecting them. Workers who have paid into the Social Security system for at least 10 years can start receiving benefits at age 62, but if you wait until 70, you'll get more money in your monthly payments.

What else should I know about Social Security?

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. Your Social Security income might also be taxable, but not necessarily.

How is Medicare related to Social Security?

Medicare insurance in the US is available for those age 65 or older, or certain people with disabilities. The program is designed to help with the cost of health care and prescription drugs. Whether you're enrolled in Medicare now or plan to enroll 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.