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Tips on Applying for Social Security Benefits

Updated on July 9, 2012

Full retirement age is for persons who are sixty-two years old and/or older. When you are sixty-one years and nine months old you can file for retirement benefits through your local social security office. If you are not yet ready to retire completely you can still apply for Medicare once you reach age sixty-five.

Consider Your Retirement Options

Only you can decide the best time for you to retire, just because you have reached the retirement age it does not mean you have to retire right now. You need to consider your options and what will work best for you and your family.

Regardless of what age you decide to retire you will receive the same amount of social security benefits. The monthly payment amount depends on when you actually retire. If you retire at an earlier age, for example age sixty-two, you will receive lower monthly payments. If you wait until you are seventy to retire, your payments will be higher each month. This is because the earlier you start receiving benefits means the longer you will need to receive these benefits, where if you wait you will receive the benefits over a shorter period of time making the monthly amount higher.

Once you apply and start receiving benefits the amount you receive is the set amount that you will get for the rest of your life. You may receive increases due to the cost of living adjustments or it may increase if you are still working.

If you determine that you are not yet ready to retire but you are within four months of your sixty-fifth birthday you should still apply for Medicare regardless of if you are at your full retirement age.

Social Security Retirement Planner

The Social Security Retirement Planner provides you with detailed information regarding your retirement benefits under the current law. It also points out information that you may want to consider as you are preparing for your future.

If you are looking for information, you can:

  • Find you retirement age
  • Estimate you life expectancy
  • Estimate your Retirement Benefits
  • plus more....

If you are nearing retirement age, you can:

  • Discover your retirement options
  • Find instructions on applying for benefits
  • Apply for retirement benefits
  • plus more....

Social Security Calculators

A number of calculators are available for you to use depending on what you are looking to do.

  1. Quick Calculator - You must be at least 21 years old or older for this to work properly. It give you a rough estimate when you enter your date of birth and your current year earnings.
  2. Online Calculator - Allows you to enter your date of birth and your complete earnings history to receive an estimated benefit amount. You may even project your earnings as far as your retirement date.
  3. WEP Online Calculator (Windfall Elimination Provision) - This version allows you to see the affect of WEP on your estimated benefits.
  4. Detailed Calculator - You must download and install this calculator on your computer. It provides the most accurate estimates.

*None of these calculators are linked to your Social Security earnings record, the earning amounts used are the one you enter. They can only produce estimates and they all assume that you have enough credits to qualify for benefits. Even if you do not have enough qualifying credits you will still receive an estimated amount. If you would like an accurate estimate it is beneficial for you to use the Retirement Estimator instead of these calculators.

Social Security Online Application

The Social Security Online Application will take you between 10 and 30 minutes to complete. It is simple and will save you the trouble of driving to your social security office and waiting to meet with a representative.

There are 6 pages in the online application.

  1. Welcome to the Social Security Benefit Application
  2. Questions About You
  3. Application Number
  4. Questions About Your Work
  5. Questions About Your Benefits
  6. Finishing Your Application



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    • profile image

      Precious 3 years ago

      I will comment on this beasuce I AM retired already - it wasn't rocket science. . .I am now 57 and retired at 55 - I started putting 10% into my 403 (the public version of 401) in 1983 when it was offered at University of California. I also have a decent pension system with healthcare from UC. I am coordinated with Social Security, and will likely take it at 62 if it is still offered. . .if not, I can live without it. My advice to people in their 20's and 30's is to live below your means, save 10%(I put my money in an equity fund from 1983 to 1998 - when I switched to a bond fund) and buy real estate, ONLY if rent to own ratio comes back into line.I bought my condo in 1987, and in 1992, my neighbor wanted out of his place, and sold it below market value to me, during the last housing crash in California. I rented it out for positive cash flow, and sold it in 2004 for tripple the money.Timing is everything - I think there will be a lot of opportunities for investment in foreclosed properties in the next 2 years. . .also some nice blue chips can be picked up at low costs. . .I got Chevron back this week at 78 with a 3% dividend.Living of course in San Diego - good downtown airport, nice weather, and at least enought culture to keep me happy - hey it isn't NYC or SF, but ok.Another advice - don't build your life around doom and gloom - things looked pretty bad in 1981, and again in 1992. . .the economy usually muddles through, and those who invest at low prices are rewarded.

    • livingpah2004 profile image

      Milli 5 years ago from USA

      This is very useful hub. Good to know that social security benefit can be applied online. Thanks for providing the information. Voted up!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      This is such a great overview- and the images of the forms themselves provide an additional useful reference point (for some reason, official forms freak me out, so seeing images of them with explanations makes them seem more approachable).

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      A wealth of great information. I'm less than 10 years away from applying (at the earliest eligible age). We went through the online process when my husband applied several years ago. I just hope SS is still around when I'm ready to apply! You have covered all the bases in your easy-to-understand Hub.

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      vwriter - You can wait to file until you are ready and decide to retire. But it is a great idea to apply for Medicare 4 months before you turn 65 in order to receive it without delays, you can do this without filing for your retirement benefits.

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      krsharp05 - Thanks for commenting!!!

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 5 years ago from US

      I heard they went online, but wasn't sure how easy it would be. If you're not planning on retiring when you are 66, if that is when you can get full benefits, do you still have to file for Social Security, or can you wait until you decide to retire?

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      This will be very helpful to those who are needing to apply for social security. I didn't realize that you could handle everything on line but it sure makes things much easier. -K