When & How to Apply for Social Security

Planning for retirement is a journey, and securing your Social Security benefits is a crucial step on that path.  While it might seem easier to put off this decision, applying early can grant you peace of mind, financial security, and the freedom to focus on enjoying your Third Age. 

You can apply for your Social Security benefits up to four months in advance and receive those benefits as early as 62.

Let’s examine the process of applying for Social Security benefits and determine when it’s appropriate. This will give you a clear roadmap during retirement and help you make an informed decision.

When to Apply for Benefits

Are you still working and wondering when you can apply for your Social Security benefits?

Congress has changed a lot over the last few years, so keeping up with current information can be hard.

Thankfully, the money experts at NerdWallet have developed a reliable and user-friendly retirement benefits calculator. This tool can be a valuable resource in your retirement planning.

While you can start receiving benefits as early as 62, you’ll receive full benefits when you wait until you reach full retirement age (67 if you were born after 1960). If you wait even longer until you’re 70, your benefit will increase.

If you claim benefits before your full retirement age but continue to work and earn more than your earnings limit, your benefits payment will be temporarily reduced. However, after your full retirement age, you can earn as much as you’d like without reducing that payment.

When Benefits Arrive

Once you’ve applied for benefits, your Social Security will start the following month. That means your benefits for June arrive in July.

When it arrives during the month also depends on your birthday:

  • Individuals with birthdays between the 1st and 10th get their benefits on the second Wednesday of the following month.
  • Those between the 11th and the 20th receive third benefits on the third Wednesday
  • And those between the 21st and the 31st receive benefits on the fourth Wednesday.

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

When you’re ready to apply for your Social Security benefits, you can submit an application online or set up an appointment to do so in person or over the phone.

What You’ll Need

Applying for your Social Security Benefits requires some information from you.

Typically, the SSA will ask you to provide:

  • Basic information about yourself
    • Social Security number
    • Where you were born (city, state, country)
  • Recent work
    • Names of employers for the past two years
    • Dates of employment
  • Current and past marriages
    • Your spouse/former spouse’s Social Security number and birthday
    • Date you got married/divorced
    • Where you got married (city, state, country)
  • Direct deposit for benefit payments
    • Routing and account number for your bank account
  • Name of Eligible Children
    • If you have children under age 18, 18 or 19 and in high school, or who became disabled before 22, they may be eligible for benefits too.

Depending on your situation, you might need to provide certain documents, such as your birth certificate, proof of U.S. citizenship, a copy of your U.S. military service papers, or your most recent W-2 forms.

You’ll also get to select when you want your benefits to begin. Since you can apply up to 4 months before you want them to start, this can allow you more time to get your documentation together.

Once approved, you’ll get a confirmation letter in the mail.

Get Started with Social Security

Applying for your benefits like Medicare and Social Security doesn’t have to be scary! Knowing what you might receive when they start and how to apply will significantly help you plan for retirement.