Given the concerns about whether and when Social Security funds will run out and how the program might be changed one day, it's not entirely unreasonable to think of it as Social Insecurity. Nevertheless, the program currently remains intact, and it's not a bad idea to look into what you might expect from it in retirement.

The best source of information is the horse's mouth, the Social Security Administration (SSA), and a good way to get information from the SSA is at its website:

Even if you're not too close to retiring, you can get a record of your Social Security earnings history detailed year by year, as well as estimates of the benefits that you may qualify for, now or later. You'll simply need to fill out Form SSA-7004, which also goes by the name "Request for Social Security Statement." You can access an electronic version of this form online at the SSA website, or you can call the SSA at 800-772-1213.

However, you may have already received this information. The SSA sends out a record of your earnings and your estimated benefits annually a few months before your birthday. Also, you can use calculators on the SSA website to get a rough idea of how much you'd receive in retirement, disability, and survivor's benefits.

At the very least, it's interesting information and can facilitate a stroll down memory lane as you recall your salaries of yesteryear. You may also run across some errors, which you can work on getting fixed.

Meanwhile, know that Washington is once more taking aim at Social Security, which has been called "the third rail of politics" (as in, "touch it and die"). President Bush has proposed that workers be allowed manage self-directed investments for some of their Social Security money. This has been met with both cheers and jeers.

Social Security enthusiasts might also be interested in this old chestnut -- a Dueling Fools feature we ran a few years ago, debating the future of Social Security. It generated many heated responses on both sides.

Learn more about retirement issues in our retirement area. And take your retirement into your own hands by opening an Individual Retirement Account -- learn how in our IRA Center.