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Mini Series on collecting Social Security-Part 3: When should you apply for Social Security? What you will need?

Source: Social Security Administration 

A secure, comfortable retirement is every worker's dream. And now because we're living longer, healthier lives, we can expect to spend more time in retirement than our parents and grandparents did.

Achieving the dream of a secure, comfortable retirement is much easier when you plan your finances.

The three major elements of your retirement portfolio are benefits from pensions, savings and investments, and Social Security benefits.

This planner provides detailed information about your Social Security retirement benefits under current law.

When should you apply?

Generally, you should apply for retirement benefits four months before you want your benefits to begin.

  • If you were born before 1938 and you met all other requirements, you could receive benefits beginning with the first full month you were age 62. However, if you chose to begin receiving benefits before age 65, your benefits were reduced to account for the longer period over which you'll be paid.

  • If you were born after 1937, you also can start your Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but your full retirement age is more than 65.
    To find out what your full retirement age is, use our Retirement Age Chart.

Even if you don't plan to receive benefits right away, or decide to wait until after you reach full retirement age, you still should sign-up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday.

Choosing the month you start to get benefits is an important decision. If you plan to continue working after you reach age 62, it may be to your advantage to start your retirement benefits before you stop working.

What will you need when you apply?

When you apply for benefits, we'll need the following:

  • Your Social Security number;

  • Your birth certificate (If you don't have a birth certificate, you can get one from the state where you were born. Go to What Documents Will You Need When You Apply? for more information.);

  • Your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year; If our records show that documents proving age or citizenship/lawful alien status have already been submitted for an earlier Medicare or Social Security claim (such as Disability, Supplemental Security Income, etc.), you do not need to submit the documents again.

  • Your military discharge papers if you had military service;

  • Your spouse's birth certificate and Social Security number if they are applying for benefits;

  • Children's birth certificates and Social Security numbers, if they're applying for children's benefits;

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you (or a spouse or child applying for benefits) were not born in the U.S.; and

  • The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be directly deposited into your account.

We need original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You can mail or bring them to a Social Security office. We'll photocopy and return your documents.

Don't delay your retirement just because you don't have all the documents we need. The representatives in your local office will help you.

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