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Do you have questions about child support and how to access it? Find information and your local office to get help.

Does the Federal Government Offer Car Grants?

No. The federal government offers grants and financial assistance in many areas, but will not give you money to buy a car.

There are very few grants available to individuals, sometimes called “personal grants.” Most grants are awarded to universities, researchers, cities, states, counties and non-profit organizations. If you are searching for a grant, get more information on specific grants and funding opportunities in a particular field, Grants.gov put all the information you need in one place.

The best place to find money to help you and your family is Benefits.gov.

When looking for financial assistance, remember that there are differences between grants and loans. You are required to pay back a loan, often with interest. You are not required to pay back a grant.

Your state’s human service or social service agency might also be able to provide financial assistance or refer you to local community organizations for help.

Answers to Your Most Frequent Questions about Social Security Benefits

During Financial Literacy Month we asked our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ friends what questions they had related to Social Security benefits and retirement. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we received and the answers that our partner at the Social Security Administration provided.

What is the minimum age to collect Social Security benefits?

As early as 62 years of age for reduced benefits, or unreduced benefits at your full retirement age.  Full retirement depends on your year of birth. Learn about the pros and cons of early retirement or delaying retirement.

How can I collect benefits if I have a child with a disability?

If you are the parent of a child who has a physical or mental impairment that causes severe functional limitations, your child could be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. Visit:http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/ssi.htm to learn more and complete a disability report. You can also call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment with the SSA.

Is my spouse eligible for benefits?

A spouse could receive an amount equal to 50 percent of the amount the beneficiary receives at full retirement age, if the spouse is of full retirement age as well. If this spouse receives a pension from an employer not covered under Social Security, benefits will be reduced. You can find more information on the Government Pension Offset (PDF).

Survivor benefits, how does this work?

If you are a widow, the child or the parent of a deceased worker, you may be eligible for monthly benefits orLump-Sum Death Payment.

There is no statute of limitations on receiving survivor death benefits if you are a child, parent or surviving spouse of a deceased worker for as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.  Detailed information can also be found here information here: How Social Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies (PDF).

What are the benefit implications of delaying retirement?

If retirement is delayed, the worker will be eligible for Delayed Retirement Credits. Delayed Retirement Credits from Social Security are an eight percent increase in the benefits for every year, after worker turns Full Retirement Age, and benefits are delayed.

If a beneficiary currently receives Social Security benefits, and he or she is not of full retirement age, up to $15,480.00 in 2014 could be earn in regular or self – employment. Social Security will deduct $1 from the benefits for each $2 earned above that limit.

If you reach full retirement age this year, the beneficiary can earn $41,400 in the months before the month full retirement age is attained. If he or she earns above the limit, Social Security will deduct $1 from these benefits for every $3 earned above the limit.


How do I apply for Medicare?

A worker is eligible for Medicare at 65 years old.  Younger workers would be eligible if receiving disability benefits (there is a 24 months waiting period).  More information is available at  http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/medicare.htm

Medicare does not pay for all the costs of medical expenses. Some beneficiaries choose to enroll in Medicare supplemental insurance. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offers more information about Medigap policies (supplemental insurance).


What if I collect other benefits from the federal government?

Social Security benefits are not affected by a Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) pension.  However, a pension from The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) will reduce Social Security benefits if you apply for benefits on your Spouse’s Social Security record. More information on the Government Pension Offset is available on the Social Security Administration’s website.

My benefits seem to low, how can I have my benefits reviewed?

It is possible to be eligible for additional benefits if the beneficiary does not have any other income and has limited resources. Social Security has a toll free number 1-800-772-1213 where a representative can be requested to review a record.

I currently live outside of the United States, can I still collect benefits?

If a beneficiary has worked in the United States but now lives abroad it may be possible to collect benefits. More information on payments while overseas is on the Social Security Administration’s website. A beneficiary can also contact the U.S. embassy in the country where they reside.

More questions or concerns regarding your benefits?

Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to a representative who can review your record or who could further help answer your questions.

Secure your child’s education with a 529 Plan

When they’re young, children dream about becoming doctors, artists, teachers, veterinarians, and many other things. But in order for those dreams to come true and for kids to actually become professionals, it’s important for them to attend and finish college.

A good college education can lead to that dream career. Though it’s a major investment, there are flexible payment plans that can help.

529 Plans

Known as the “College Savings Plan,” 529 Plans let you start investing early for your children’s future college career. These plans are generally sponsored by the state, state agencies or educational institutions.

There are two types of 529 Plans:

1. Prepaid tuition plans. Also called “guaranteed savings plans” in some states, this plan locks in future tuition rates at public institutions. Some private universities also offer similar plans.

2. College savings plan. This one is similar to a 401K retirement account, but the money you invest is only used to pay for your child’s education. You can choose the amount (free of taxes) to be deducted from each paycheck. The amount saved will be used to pay for college when the time comes, or it can be used for related expenses, such as housing, books or school supplies. 

To open a 529 Plan, contact your state’s program administrator.

Benefits

Depending on your choice, your 529 Plan will let you:

  • Select a plan regardless of your income or age of your children.
  • Transfer your plan from one state to another. You can use this online tool to compare state plans.
  • Have control of your money and manage it the way you want.
  • Allow anyone to contribute to the savings plan, whether it’s a family member or friend.
  • Transfer your plan to help someone else pay for school.

529 Plans are tax-free, as long as the money is used to pay for college. If, for any reason, you decide to use the savings for something else, you can withdraw the money as long as you pay the taxes due.

Resources

Use the College Savings Calculator to figure out the amount you must invest each month to cover all your child’s educational costs. The budget calculator will help you compare school expenses against your income and financial aid.

Read this post in Spanish.

Social Security and Retirement Plan

Many people like to get a head start on planning their family’s economic future. And without a doubt, a major part of that process concerns retirement.

When planning your own retirement, it’s important to consider factors such as your current economic situation, your future needs, and if you will be depending on other sources of income.

Social Security is an essential part in planning your retirement from the work force, and so it’s recommended that you get to know some of its most important aspects.

1.  Retirement Age

In order to retire and be able to collect Social Security benefits, you must be at least 62 years-old. However, if you begin to collect at that age, the funds will be permanently reduced. If instead you decide to retire at age 67, you will be able to collect your full benefits.

See the Social Security department’s Retirement Planner for further information.

2. Number of Social Security Credits Needed to Retire

In addition to reaching retirement age, you should also have accumulated a total of 40 credits. You earn credits depending on the number of years you worked. Generally you get four credits for every year you’ve worked.

If you’ve already accumulated 40 credits and you’d like to know the amount of money that you’d collect during your retirement, you can create an online Social Security account and receive a copy of your benefits.

If you don’t have the required 40 credits but would like an estimate of the amount of benefits you’d receive, you can use the retirement benefits calculator.

3. Retirement Abroad

You have the right to collect Social Security benefits even if you live in another country. But if you are receiving retirement payments from another country that isn’t the United States, Social Security may reduce those benefits.

There are certain regulations for U.S. citizens and residents, and for those living in countries such as Cuba, North Korea and others. You can find more information about your payments while living outside the United States.

Use this tool to see if you can continue receiving your Social Security Payments abroad.

Applying for retirement benefits and other information

You can apply for retirement benefits online or at a Social Security office near you.

If you’d like to receive more information, get in touch with Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY, for people with hearing disabilities).

Read this note in Spanish.