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Retirees are sometimes surprised by the size of their Social Security check, with 27 percent of retirees reporting that their payments are less than they had expected.

According to the latest Social Security survey conducted by Nationwide Retirement Institute, aspiring retirees expect to receive an average payment of $1,628 per month, even though current retirees are receiving an average of $1,257 per month, CNBC reported.

Tina Ambrozy, president of sales and distribution at Nationwide, said that retirees who do not expect that 30 percent difference encounter a rude awakening.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what those folks who are approaching retirement believe their retirement will cover and what it will cover,” Ambrozy said. “The gap is pretty significant.”

Social Security benefits are expected to the main source of income in retirement for 55 percent of those surveyed, which included 1,013 individuals ages 50 and up.

Prior to retirement, there are several things you can do to increase your understanding of what you can expect from Social Security.

Seek to develop a clear understanding of your benefits. The longer you postpone your claim for Social Security up to age 70, the larger the amount of your benefits. Although you are eligible to claim benefits at age 62, you will receive less by claiming early.

The longer you wait to claim Social Security up until age 70, the higher the amount of your benefits will be.

Most of the respondents to Nationwide’s survey said they planned to wait until 66 to claim Social Security benefits, most actually claim them at 62.

“There’s four years between when they thought they were going to start collecting and when they actually are collecting,” Ambrozy said. “That has a huge impact on their income that they’re drawing for the rest of their life.”

You should also work to understand where your money will really go. The survey revealed a discrepancy between where individuals anticipate their Social Security checks will go and how they actually use them.

Healthcare costs should be of specific concern to retirees, although 41 percent of older individuals surveyed saying that they do not plan to use their Social Security income to pay for health care. Of those who had retired within the last 10 years, 58 percent reported using their Social Security income to pay for health care.

Experts recommend that you get professional advice regarding the best strategy for claiming your Social Security benefits, which depends on a variety of factors, including your age, health, marital status, employment status and other retirement savings.

A relationship with a financial adviser can also boost the amount of your benefit checks, Nationwide’s survey revealed.

Those who worked with an adviser realized a more than 20 percent increase in their benefits, according to the survey. Even so, only 13 percent of older adults said they are working with an adviser who has discussed their Social Security benefits with them.

“The conversation is not happening enough around this,” Ambrozy said. “They’re not planning and preparing, and then they end up in a situation that is irreversible. It’s really sad, and it’s preventable.”

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