The workings of the U.S. Social Security Administration can be clouded by jargon and bureaucracy. Check these sites for answers to big questions and how to deal with those bureaucrats.
The retirement "estimator" at Social Security's ssa.gov site will give you a ballpark number for what you can expect in those benefits at retirement. The estimator uses your own information on record with the Social Security Administration. Other links from the same page will estimate your life expectancy and tell you how to begin an online application for benefits.
You can begin receiving Social Security payments at 62, but your checks will be bigger if you wait to a later age. In a video at the site of the Los Angeles Times, consumer columnist David Lazarus explains a little-known fact: If you change your mind within 12 months of starting to receive Social Security payments, "you can give the money back and get the clock going again" to qualify for larger payments when you are older. The trick, of course, is having the money to return. Better to think hard beforehand about when to start on Social Security.