How Do I Apply for Social Security Benefits?

You’ve worked hard, met with your financial advisor, determined when to take Social Security and you are set to retire … now what? Many retirees get to this point and are not sure what the next steps are when applying for Social Security. Thankfully, you have three options!
  1. Online: Prefer to handle things on your own? Today, it’s easier than ever to apply for Social Security by applying online. Visit the Social Security Administration website to get the process started. If you don’t finish the application, they make it convenient by allowing you to return and finish later.
  2. By Phone: Not savvy with the computer? You can also call Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 1-800-772-1213 to speak with a representative and apply for your benefit.
  3. In Person: Prefer to handle things face to face? You can visit your local Social Security office to apply for your benefit. Please visit the Social Security coronavirus webpage to see if you are eligible for an in-person appointment. If so, you can find the office closest to you via their office locator.

It’s important to be prepared when starting the application process for your benefit. Below are some of the items that you may need to be prepared to provide when applying.

  • Birth certificate – this needs to be an original certificate or one certified by an issuing agency. A photocopy will not be accepted.
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful alien status.
  • Copies of W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax return for the previous year.

If you don’t have all the appropriate documents, don’t let that stop you from applying. The Social Security office will take what you have, allowing you time to collect the other documents. Any original documents that you have provided will be returned to you once you have completed the application process. If you don’t know how to get all the documents required, I recommend speaking with a representative at your local office. They can help point you in the right direction.

It’s important to note that the Social Security Office recommends that you apply for benefits at least three months prior to the date you wish to start receiving your benefit. The earliest you can sign up for your benefit is 61 years and 9 months of age.

If you are nearing retirement and would like to determine the best time to start receiving your benefit, please call your financial advisor to discuss. We are here to help!

For more, I encourage you to read my colleagues’ articles, “How Social Security Fits Into Your Retirement Plan” and “When Should You Take Social Security?

Ashley Gragtmans, CFP®, BFA™, CSRIC®
Senior Financial Advisor

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