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Debunking 3 big myths about Social Security

Let's face it, Social Security can be confusing.

Trying to determine when to collect. Calculating how much you'll get if you claim early or wait. And figuring out the ins and outs of spousal benefits.

When it comes to Social Security, what you don't know can definitely cost you. The decisions you make on when to file could potentially result in tens of thousands of extra dollars in your pocket during those golden years.

Yet a recent survey by insurance company Mass Mutual found its respondents were mostly clueless about the system. Only 28 percent received a passing grade after answering a series of true or false questions about this key source of income for many retirees.

In addition, just 8 percent considered themselves knowledgeable when asked about their comfort level with the program.

To make sure you get the most out of every check, here's the truth about three common Social Security myths.

1. The retirement age is 65.

That may have been the case for many years, but it's not true anymore.

If you want to get your full Social Security benefit, you need to wait until what's called "full retirement age" to begin collecting. The full retirement age is actually increasing and may be 66 to 67 depending on when you were born. If you were born in 1960 or later, it's 67.

To figure out your full retirement age, go to the Social Security Administration's website and use the retirement age calculator.

2. You can work and collect full benefits regardless of age.

If you haven't reached your full retirement age and you are working while collecting Social Security your benefits will be temporarily reduced. The Social Security Administration will use what it calls a "retirement earnings test" to make the adjustment.

So if your income exceeds $15,720 for the year, $1 will be taken out of your Social Security check for every $2 you earn above that limit.

3. You can't collect if you've never worked.

You can still receive a spousal benefit even if you never paid into Social Security. In fact, those benefits can equal up to one-half of the spouse's full retirement benefit.

And that's the truth about Social Security.