Financial advisors have an online resource they can turn to for answers to questions about Social Security.

The Social Security Administration maintains, which answers the kind of questions planners may get from clients.

The site is open to the public, as well financial planners, and has sections dealing with retirement, disability, survivors and Medicare. It focuses on calculators that can help determine when a person should start taking Social Security benefits based on different retirement dates and future earnings levels.

The site even has a calculator to help determine how long a person might live: a crucial factor in deciding when to start taking benefits.

"This site provides information to financial planners regarding the various Social Security programs and Medicare and is a valuable resource in helping your clients plan for retirement or other life events," says Social Security on the site.

The site allows a person to apply for benefits on line and to apply for Medicare.

Spousal benefits, the windfall elimination provision, and what every woman should know are a few of the topics covered by the site. It also has options to get information by telephone, PDF files that can be printed, and even an audio option for those who would rather listen than read.

A financial planner can get a client's Social Security statement online, an important piece of information since earnings and potential benefits statements are no longer automatically mailed periodically because of government budget cuts. Such things as an explanation of Medicare premiums that apply to higher-income beneficiaries and any updates that have been made during the year that affect a client's benefit levels also are available.

Calculators allow the planner to use different scenarios to determine a client's potential benefits, including how survivor benefits are determined and how earnings and pensions can affect benefit amounts.

-Karen DeMasters