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October 20, 2013

SOCIAL SECURITY: You’ve just stepped into … the retirement zone

TERRE HAUTE — You are about to enter another dimension — a dimension not only of work and earnings, but of pension and leisure, a journey into a wondrous land of imagination. You unlock this door with Social Security’s Retirement Estimator and online benefit application. Next stop … the retirement zone.

That’s not exactly sticking to the original script, but some television viewers may be hearing the voice of Rod Serling ringing in their heads right now. “The Twilight Zone” television program first aired in 1959 and ran for five seasons — and continues to live on in reruns. The series took viewers through amazing journeys with each episode featuring characters who faced unusual or extraordinary circumstances.

If you’re nearing retirement now, it may seem an extraordinary circumstance that these days you really can do it all from the comfort of your home or office computer. Amazing but true: You can do so much online, including getting an estimate of future benefits, testing out different retirement scenarios, completing and submitting your retirement application online, and much more.

Picture a man — man sitting at his home computer. He isn’t sure whether he should apply now, wait until he reaches full retirement age, or work a little longer and begin receiving benefits at age 70. He’s about to find out … with a visit to the Retirement Estimator. The Estimator uses his past earnings and allows him to enter variable future earnings and retirement dates to complete the picture of a retirement he’d like to live.

Imagine a woman — a woman with a laptop enjoying a hot cup of java at her favorite coffee house. She’s done with planning and has decided it’s time to take the plunge and retire. Before going to a local Social Security office as her parents and older siblings did, she visits www.socialsecurity.gov and discovers she can complete the entire application online and submit it in about 15 minutes. As in most cases, there are no papers to sign and no documents to provide. She ventures from www.socialsecurity.gov to an audio book and closes her eyes to begin enjoying her retirement.

Back when “The Twilight Zone” first hit television screens, the idea of testing out retirement scenarios or even completing and submitting a retirement application online would have been science fiction fodder fit for an episode of the program. Today, it is reality.

Try it out for yourself. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov and take a visit into … the retirement zone.

Brian L. Hewitt is district manager at the Social Security Administration office at 222 Cherry St.

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