When to Apply for Social Security in 2024 and How

Social Security retirement benefits aren't automatic. You can apply up to four months before you want them to start.
Taryn Phaneuf
By Taryn Phaneuf 
Updated
Edited by Tina Orem

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You can apply for Social Security retirement benefits up to four months in advance, and you can begin receiving benefits as early as age 62. To apply for Social Security, fill out an application on the Social Security Administration website.

Social Security benefit payments lag by a month, so the earliest you can receive a payment is at age 62 years and 1 month

SSA.gov. Plan for retirement. Accessed May 22, 2023.
. The Social Security Administration will reduce your benefit if you do not wait until full retirement age, which is 67 for most.

» Planning for retirement? Here’s a 5-step guide

When to apply for Social Security

How much you'll receive from Social Security depends partly on when you apply for benefits. You can start receiving retirement benefits at age 62, though you’ll receive your full retirement benefit if you wait until you reach full retirement age. If you wait even longer, your retirement benefit will continue to increase until you turn 70

SSA.gov. Retirement Benefits. Accessed May 22, 2023.
.

Estimate your Social Security retirement benefits

Your actual benefit may be lower or higher than estimate made with this calculator, because it does not take into account your actual earnings history.

We assume you have earnings every year until you begin receiving Social Security benefits. If you had several years of noncovered employment or your earnings changed significantly from year to year, this calculator will overestimate or underestimate your benefit.

Desired age to begin Social Security

You will qualify for benefits at age 62.

» Thinking of taking Social Security early? Here’s what to know

Social Security payments lag by a month. For example, Social Security benefits for September arrive in October.

  • If your birthday falls between the 1st and the 10th of the month, you’ll receive your benefits on the second Wednesday of the following month.

  • If your birthday falls between the 11th and the 20th of the month, you’ll receive your benefits on the third Wednesday of the following month.

  • If your birthday falls between the 21st and the 31st of the month, you’ll receive your benefits on the fourth Wednesday of the following month.

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How to apply for Social Security

You can apply for Social Security benefits through the Social Security website, ssa.gov. You'll find separate applications for each Social Security benefit, including retirement, spousal, disability (SSDI) and Medicare.

You also can call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or visit a local office. Scheduling an appointment before going into the office might be worthwhile to minimize wait times.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The busiest times at Social Security offices are typically Mondays, the morning after a federal holiday and the first week of the month, according to the Social Security Administration.

What you'll need to apply for Social Security

To apply for Social Security retirement benefits, you'll need to be prepared with information about yourself and your work history

.

  • About you: Your date and place of birth and Social Security number (including if you've used a different Social Security number), your citizenship status, your original birth certificate or other proof of birth and proof of U.S. citizenship or authorization to work in the U.S.

  • About your current and/or former spouse: Names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth or ages, dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if applicable).

  • About your children: Names of any unmarried children under 18; or under 19 and in elementary, middle or high school; or children with disabilities that started before age 22.

  • Previous Social Security applications: If you or someone else filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on your behalf, you'll need to provide additional information.

  • Where benefits should be directed: Routing and account information for your bank or other financial institution.

  • When benefits begin: You'll need to indicate which month you want your retirement benefits to kick in. Also, if you're within three months of turning 65, you'll need to indicate whether you wish to enroll in Medicare Part B to get medical insurance coverage.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Did you know that Medicare Part B premiums are usually automatically deducted from your Social Security retirement checks? Learn more about how much Medicare actually costs.

The Social Security retirement benefits application also asks about your work history.

  • Your employer: Name and address of your employer (or employers) for the current year and last year.

  • Your earnings: The amount you earned last year and this year. You may be asked for copies of W-2 forms or self-employment tax returns for the past year. You'll also need to provide a copy of your Social Security statement or a record of your earnings. You can find your Social Security statement online by creating an account with the Social Security Administration. If you don't have a record of your earnings, you should still fill out the application.

  • Special work or benefits history: You'll be asked for the start and end dates of any U.S. military service from before 1968 and a copy of your military service papers, whether you or your spouse ever worked for the railroad industry and whether you'll get a pension or annuity from a job with the federal government. You'll also be asked if you earned Social Security credits under another country's social security system.

  • Your ability to work: You'll need to say if you were unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions within 14 months of your application. If you couldn't work during that period, you'll need to provide the date you became unable to work.

You can find a list of what you need to apply for spousal or disability benefits on the Social Security Administration's website.

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