Social Security is the bedrock of many Americans’ retirement plans. It’s the reliable source of income that can supplement or be the primary financial support that reduces the need to work into their older age. If you’re nearing retirement age or have pushed off enrolling in Social Security, you may be wondering if it’s time to begin the process of enrolling. Understanding how and when to enroll in Social Security is a good first step!
Are You Eligible?
When you start exploring applying for Social Security, knowing if you’re even eligible for benefits is critical. Most people have a general idea of what allows them to receive Social Security checks. This is basically true if you boil it down to the bare bones. If you are 62 years old or older, you may qualify for Social Security, but this leaves an important aspect out. You must also have worked and paid at least 10 years of the Social Security tax. This should include most people, but not everyone.
You can always check your eligibility for Social Security benefits by answering a few quick questions with the Social Security Administration.
This isn’t the only way you can become eligible for Social Security, as this would leave out the millions of Americans that are homemakers or stay-at-home parents. Similar to Medicare, your spouse’s taxes are credited to you, even if you’ve since divorced or separated from that spouse. If you have a child that is younger than 18, is 18 or 19 and attends elementary or high school full time, or has a disability, they also may be eligible for a benefit due to your work. You can always check your eligibility for Social Security benefits by answering a few quick questions with the Social Security Administration.
By waiting until your full retirement age, you can receive the full Social Security benefit.
Eligibility isn’t the only factor that can determine when to apply. Some choose to wait until their “full retirement age” to begin receiving their benefit. While you’re eligible at 62, the full retirement age isn’t until 66 or 67, depending on when you were born. By waiting until your full retirement age, you can receive the full Social Security benefit. Each year of enrollment before your full retirement age can decrease your benefit a small amount, while each year you wait up until age 70 can increase your benefit.
What You Need When Applying
When it comes time to apply for Social Security, you’re going to need to include a good bit of information. This information falls into two groups, about you and about your work and wage. For yourself, you’ll need your social security number and where and when you were born. You’ll also need to provide the same information about your spouse, any former spouses, and the names of children that may qualify for Social Security benefits. In some circumstances, you may need to provide your citizenship status, if you want to enroll in Medicare Part B (if you’re eligible), and a few other rarer details. You’ll also need to state when you want benefits to begin.
For work, you’ll need the name and address of your employer for this year and the previous year and the amounts you earned those years. If you’re filing in September or later, you’ll also need to estimate your earnings for the next year. You should also provide a copy of your Social Security Statement and if you were unable to work in the last 14 months due to illness, injury, or conditions. You can provide most of the information by supplying your birth certificate or another proof of birth document, proof of citizenship or lawful alien status, a copy of your U.S. military service papers if you served, and a copy of your W-2 or tax returns for the previous year. If you’re unable to provide some of this information or these documents, meet with your local Social Security office, and they may able to help you find or verify the information you need.
Different Ways You Can Apply for Social Security
Now that you know who can apply, when, and what you need to provide, we need to cover the how’s. There are three ways to easily enroll in Social Security.
You can now apply for Social Security without leaving your living room. All you have to do is go to https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/rib and complete the application. You will create a mySocial Security account. After, you’ll be able to check the status of your application and follow it through the process.
Over the Phone
If you’re not comfortable applying online, you can call the Social Security line and apply over the phone. The number to call is 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778). The line is open Monday through Friday from 8:00AM to 7:00PM. The phone operator will guide you through the process without having to go into the office.
You may want a more personal approach by going into your local Social Security office. This is an option. We suggest you call your office to schedule an appointment. This way, you will have someone be prepared to help you apply directly at the office. Don’t know where your office is? The Social Security Administration has an Office Locator that shows your nearest office by zip code.
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Whatever method you choose to apply, it’s good to know that you can enroll in Social Security benefits in a convenient and easy way. If you have any questions, feel free to call Social Security, visit your local Social Security office, or utilize the Check Eligibility link.