Social Security makes up approximately 40% of the average American’s retirement income so it’s important to make the best decision for you and your family.
When to Apply for Social Security Benefits
Social Security retirement benefits can be collected as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.
Full retirement age depends on your birthday, but for boomers now starting to retire, the full retirement age is 66. If you receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, your benefit will be reduced by up to 25%.
Alternatively, if you postpone collecting benefits after you reach full retirement age, your benefit will increase by 8% each year until you reach age 70. After age 70 you can no longer earn credits so there is no benefit to delaying benefits after age 70.
According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 73% of current beneficiaries submit their Social Security application before reaching retirement age and are therefore receiving reduced benefits; however this may not be the best strategy. Your health, life expectancy, marital status and other resources all play a role in when you should start collecting benefits.
How to Apply for Social Security Benefits
Once you’ve decided when to start your Social Security benefits, how do you submit your application? There are three ways to apply for Social Security:
1. You can go online to SocialSecurity.gov and submit your Social Security application right on the website. However, at this time you can only apply for retirement benefits online (you must call or visit an office in person to apply for survivor benefits).
2. Call 800-772-1213 to apply for benefits by telephone.
3. Or you can visit an office in person if you want to talk to an employee face to face. To find the closest office, visit the website at SocialSecurity.gov.
You will need the following information when you submit your Social Security application:
– Social Security number
– Name at birth, date and place of birth
– Citizenship status
– Active duty service dates
– Marital status, spouse’s name, date of birth and SSN
– Name, date of birth and SSN of any former spouses
– Names of any unmarried children under age 18
– The name and address of each company you worked for in the last two years, including estimated earnings
– If you are within 3 months of turning 65, you’ll also need to let Social Security know if you are enrolling in Medicare or not.
Additional information may be required if you are self employed or if you worked in a government job that will provide a pension benefit.
Submit Your Social Security Application Three Months in Advance
You should apply for Social Security retirement benefits three months before the date you want to start receiving benefits. Payments are sent the month after the month they are due. For example, if you apply for retirement benefits and request that they start in October of 2012, you will receive your first payment in November 2012.
For more information on how to submit your Social Security application, please visit Social Security Online: How to Apply for Social Security Benefits.