Sadly it’s not as easy as just packing up your office and never coming back to work – while you can do that, you’re not going to start receiving that coveted monthly check until you actually go through the process of applying for retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Here’s how to apply for Social Security if you’re ready to pull the plug on your working career and get on with enjoying your life.
Not as Hard as You Might Think
The actual process behind submitting your application for Social Security benefits is not nearly as hard as you might think.
While you can go down to your local Social Security office to fill out a form by hand or call Social Security toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 to speak to an SSA representative, the easiest way to apply for Social Security is to submit your application online at the SSA’s website.
There are many benefits of completing your application online, one of which is the ability to stop and go back to your application at any time – something you wouldn’t be able to do in an office visit or over the phone.
You can also skip questions and leave them for later, as the online application process will prompt you to answer any unanswered questions before it will let you submit your application; additionally, it’s easy to go back and change an answer if you make a mistake.
Once you do finish your application online, you’ll even receive a receipt in your email that you can print out for your records, and you can come back at any time and check the status of your application as it moves through the red tape of the Social Security Administration.
There’s little not to like about the online application process, except in the case of your inability or unwillingness to use a computer and the Internet to both fill out and file the application.
Important Things to Know about Applying
Whether you apply over the Internet or the old-fashioned way there are some things you will need to be made aware of in order to have an easier time during the process.
First, you must decide beforehand what age you want to retire as this could affect your monthly benefits. Retiring either before or after your “full retirement” age – usually 66 or 67 – can grow or shrink your payments accordingly; you can retire as early as the age of 62 or as late as 70, but retiring early makes your monthly checks smaller while retiring later makes them larger.
The SSA has designed these reductions and increases to ensure that you receive the same amount of money over the course of your retirement as long as you live to your full life expectancy, so it’s not about punishing you for choosing to retire early or rewarding you for retiring later.
Also, if you need to apply to other federal retirement benefit programs such as Medicare, you can do so at the same time that you apply for Social Security benefits – especially if you’re retiring within three months of turning 65.
If you’re waiting to retire until after that age – or if you’ve already retired – you can apply for Medicare separately using the Social Security Administration’s online application process on its own regardless of your retirement status.
To start your application for Social Security retirement benefits go to http://www.ssa.gov/retire/apply.html