If you're thinking about retiring soon, you should find out about your eligibility. At the minimum, you need to be 61 and 9 months to apply as of 2012. The Social Security website has an eligibility screening tool that will help you find out all of the benefits that you may qualify for.

Once you've determined that you're eligible to apply for Social Security, you're ready to start the application process. Luckily, the government has made applying for Social Security very accessible--you can apply online, over the phone, or in person by going to one of the Social Security Administration offices.

However, before you file for Social Security, there are some handy tips that you may want to be aware of. Browse our guides and q&a below to ensure that your Social Security application goes smoothly.