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When and How to File for Social Security Benefits

When to File

You’ve gone through the retirement planning process and looked at all the considerations for when to start your Social Security benefits and made the decision on what age you’d like your benefits to begin, but when should you actually file?

The earliest you can apply for retirement benefits is 4 months before you want your benefits to begin. We recommend filing four months early to ensure they start on time and in case you discover you need to do some digging to find some requested information (a list of what you’ll need to know is below).

How to File

You can file online at ssa.gov, or in person at a Social Security office. You can call the office ahead of time to make an appointment.

The most important item to note when filing is that the Social Security Operations Manual indicates that anyone filing after their full retirement age (such as filing at age 70) will be presumed to want retroactive benefits unless they specifically indicate that they do not want to do this. This means that, if you are trying to file for your benefits to begin on your 70th birthday, unless you tell them otherwise, they will give you 6 months of retroactive benefits and a lower monthly benefit going forward. You want to be sure your benefits begin exactly when you’ve decided they should begin according to your retirement plan.

We are happy to help you file for your benefits, please let us know if you would like that help!

Information You’ll Need

  • Date and place of birth and Social Security number
  • Spousal information: Name, Social Security number, date of birth and place of (and former spouses too). Date of divorce or death, if applicable.
  • Names of any unmarried children under 18, 18-19 and in secondary school or disabled before age 22
  • Routing and account number for the bank account you would like your benefits deposited to
  • The month you want your benefits to begin
  • If you are within 3 months of age 65, whether you want to enroll in Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B)
  • The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;
  • The amount of money earned last year and this year. If you are filing for benefits in the months of September through December, you will also need to estimate next year's earnings;
  • A copy of your Social Security Statement or a record of your earnings.

Information You May Need

  • Original birth certificate
  • Proof of US citizenship or lawful alien status
  • US Military service papers
  • W2 form for previous year