Applying for Social Security



For one-third of senior Americans, 90% of their total income comes from Social Security benefits. As a senior, life becomes a lot easier if you are registered for Social Security after retirement. You can lead a more fulfilling life because you don’t have to worry about money. Applying for Social Security benefits entitles you to Medicare benefits as well. This actually takes care of some of your healthcare expenses.

Social Security is a comprehensive federal program providing benefits to you and your family in the form of retirement income, disability income and other forms of payments.

Before applying for Social Security, carefully consider your options, understand what benefits you will receive and make decisions as to when you and your spouse would like to receive your Social Security benefits.

When can I apply for Social Security?

The year you were born in is taken into account before allowing the collection of full benefits of Social Security. The earliest age at which you could start collecting Social Security benefits is 62 years.

Year of Birth Collection age for Full Benefits
1937 or before 65 years
1938-1942 65 years, 6 months
1943-1954 66 years
1960 or later 67 years

The table above shows the relevant details pertaining to age eligibility for collection of full Social Security benefits.

Certain exceptional cases:

The table is however not applicable for widows or widowers and underage survivor dependents. Delaying the receipt of first benefits would help you to get more money beyond your full Social Security benefits. But the receipt of first benefits cannot be delayed beyond the age of 70 years.

How can I apply for Social Security?

While applying for Social Security, you will need the following:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for the previous year
  • Your spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security number, if your spouse is applying for benefits too
  • Children’s birth certificates and Social Security numbers to apply for children’s benefits
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S.
  • The name of your bank and your account number
  • Your military discharge papers, if you had served a period of military service
  • Please note that you need to submit the original documents or their photocopies certified by the issuing office.

Can I apply for Social Security Benefits before retirement age?

Yes, you can. But if you opt for Social Security benefits before retirement age, you will receive reduced benefits. To receive full Social Security benefits, you have to retire at your full retirement age.

The term “retirement age” is used to denote the age at which a person becomes eligible to receive the first Social Security benefits. Thus the retirement age could be anything between 62 and 67 years, depending on the year of birth. The term “stop work age” is used to denote the age at which you stop being a part of the US workforce.

If you stop work before your retirement age, certain calculations regarding Social Security benefits come into play. The retirement benefits depend on your 35 years of highest earnings. In case you stop work before reaching retirement age, a zero is added to each no-income year in order to make the necessary calculations related to retirement benefits.