THE BLOG
07/22/2014 06:26 pm ET | Updated Sep 21, 2014

Social Security Benefits Made Easy, Part 1

Baby Boomers,

I know most of us are not old enough yet to benefit from the Social Security System, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be already planning for how to best utilize what this system has to offer when we do need it.

There is no better time than now to get prepared for what will be a major contributor to our post-retirement income stream.

Are you as confused about the Social Security system as I am?

When is the last time you checked out the website?

Did you know that this system is revised and updated almost every year?

Did you know that some major changes affecting your benefits were put in place in 2014?

There is a free handbook you can request from the Social Security administration which will guide you through the system.

The handbook has 27 chapters and 2,728 separate rules governing its benefits.

Do you have your reading glasses handy?

And a pot of coffee?

Not clear on what each of these rules mean that control your benefits?

Well, if that's not enough "light" reading then you can dive into the Social Security Program Operating Manual (otherwise cutely known as "POMS") which has thousands of in-depth explanations of those rules, which provide the proper guidance on implementing those 2,728 rules.

Hey, I'm growing old just thinking about all of that reading.

Last week I attended a free seminar called "Social Security and It's Benefits" hosted by AARP as part of their "Community Educators Program."

I found the announcement on the AARP website just by clicking on my state tab.

While I am not a huge advocate of the overall effectiveness of AARP, they do offer a variety of useful benefits that the average Baby Boomer can use that more than pays for the cost of their membership.

I live in Surprise (yep, that's what it's called), your basic non-descript master-planned suburb Northwest of Phoenix, Arizona.

You bet I was "surprised' when I saw this little event being held at the local Senior Citizens Center smack dab in the center of our sleepy little community.

Being that the event was scheduled for lunchtime on a Thursday, I didn't expect much of a crowd in attendance.

To my "surprise" there were over 30 senior citizens and they ranged in ages from their 50's to probably the mid 70's.

Even more "surprising" was the fact that almost 75 percent were women.

I came to this event more as an objective observer hiding behind my "reporter" status for my blog.

I had never been to an AARP event, let alone one targeted to a senior citizen topic like social security.

I was curious how professional the presentation would be and who would be interested enough to attend.

Being that I am only 57, I didn't think there would be any value in the topic for me.

Well, let me tell you, I was completely wrong.

The presentation (although only 45 minutes long) was insightful, easy to understand and full of important information that even a younger audience would find useful.

In fact, upon leaving the presentation I was wondering to myself why there aren't any classes at the high school or at least college levels to instruct our younger generations about the social security system and prepare them for their future.

It seems like the government has always just left it up to each individual taxpayer to decide when they felt it was important enough to dedicate their time to become acquainted with the benefits and try to figure out how to navigate their best course of action.

Unfortunately, this usually happens too late for the average senior citizen to totally grasp the intricacies of the entire system.

It is a government program after all and that automatically means that it will be complicated and difficult to navigate by nature.

2,278 rules to understand. Right?

Anyway, I am going to dedicate this week to helping you, my baby boomer followers, get a head start on the Social Security System so you can prepare to make the best decisions on how you want to use your well-earned government assistance (insurance) to help finance your retirement.

Are you ready to start today with a quick quiz to see how much you already know?

Although there are several different quizzes on the AARP website I found this one to be the most eye-opening.

It's a simple 10 question quiz touching on the basics of the program.

Strangely enough, I have been researching social security pretty extensively and I really did listen attentively at the seminar last week and I still only scored 8 out of 10 on the quiz.

Let me know how you do in the comments section below and let me know if there any particular questions you have so I can cover them over the next few days in our discussions.

Tomorrow, we'll start digging in to some fun basics about how the Social Security System is funded and how the 5 different benefit programs work.

Hopefully there will be plenty of good "surprises."