Considering Early Retirement? Mellody Hobson's Tips for Social Security Benefits

More and more people are choosing to retire early, and they're dipping into their Social Security benefits.

The 75-year-old program is facing a rare shortfall because so many people took their benefits in 2009. Thanks to widespread unemployment and a down economy, many baby boomers are finding it hard to get by without that extra income.

This morning on "Good Morning America" you saw personal finance expert Mellody Hobson discussing the issue.

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Hobson, who is president of Ariel Investments, talked about the pros and cons of early retirement.

She also gave the following Web-only extra tips:

Mellody's Extra Tips

If you want to determine what your normal age of retirement is, the Social Security Administration has a chart on its website. Click HERE to see the chart.

The best way to receive your Social Security benefits is through direct deposit. A check can be lost or stolen, but with direct deposit your money is in your account on the day it is paid. Actual checks will no longer be sent after March 2013 -- and only electronic payments will be made to recipients. The easiest way to set-up direct deposit is to contact your bank. Or, you can contact the Social Security Administration.

If you are divorced and you were married for at least 10 years, you still may be eligible for spousal benefits on your former spouse's schedule. In order to be eligible, you must be at least 62 years old, unmarried, and have a lower benefit level than your ex-spouse. You could qualify for as much as 50 percent of your former spouse's Social Security benefit. Check out the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov for more information.

If you need a certified financial planner to help you with Social Security and your retirement savings, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., is the best place to start. The website will help you find a planner in your area. Remember to discuss fees and services first as they could differ widely from planner to planner.

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" website.

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