A secure retirement usually depends on years of careful preparation. You need to know what the obstacles are, where to turn for help, and what resources will be waiting for you once you retire. These sites can help.

You need to get familiar with the Social Security website. Use it to apply for benefits, including for disability and Medicare. Long before retiring, the site can help you estimate the benefits you'll be entitled to. If, say, you are a victim of domestic abuse or identity theft, you can use the site to block access to information about you.


Social Security's "retirement planner" has links that will reveal the age at which you'll qualify for full Social Security benefits, how you'll get dinged if you retire early, and your life expectancy.


A PBS Frontline report looks at "The Retirement Gamble." It points out the multitude of tears in the patchwork of programs, pensions, and personal-saving accounts that are supposed to make up a secure retirement. Increasingly, pieces of the retirement puzzle are missing for individuals and, as one person in the film says, "I don't have a plan B."


Recover from the PBS downer by going to MarketWatch's RetireMentors page. It states that the advice you read will be upgraded, coming from "retirement professionals, not staff journalists." There's a hefty list, about 40 of these experts, with plenty to say about how to survive the retirement minefield. The numbers make for a steady diet of advice and observations, such as Mitch Anthony's post, "Boomer Interrupted," about how baby boomers are adapting their homes and lives to care for aged parents.


No bells or whistles adorn the Retire Early Home Page site. But if you want to consider the option of racing to retirement (as opposed to being pushed into it, or deciding you're better off never retiring), then check out some of the offerings here. Early retirement poses quite a number of problems, including health-care coverage, reduced Social Security benefits, and living costs that will keep rising while your income slows or declines. None of these problems need be insurmountable. At least, that's the message here.


Avoid retirement fraud with some basic guidelines, provided by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Investment scams can be devastating at any age, but the older you are, the harder it is to recover. Avoiding fraud is a matter of staying alert to unsolicited offers and not being afraid to ask questions, demand answers, complain, and report suspicious financial deals.