You have reached retirement age. All the years of hard work are about to pay off and it is time to collect your Social Security check by sitting down to apply for your retirement benefits. It is important to note that even if you did not pay into the social security system, you may still be able to collect a benefit through a spouse, family member or SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

How to apply for retirement check from the SSA

To apply for your retirement you need to visit the SSA office or go online to file an application for your benefits. The online application can be filed at SSA.gov. The application will take 15-20 minutes to complete and then it is sent start to the Social Security Administration for processing. If you would like to see examples of the application then check out this video.

You can also click here for some screen shots of the process. We can`t stress to you how easy it is to sign up online. Your information is just as secure as it is on paper, if not more. With firewalls and privacy technology, rest assured your information and application for benefits is secure.

When should you apply for benefits

Ideally you want to apply for your benefits 4 months before you need them to start. If you apply before 65 you will get less money than you would at full retirement age. You must be at least 62 to apply for your retirement benefits but you can get other social security benefits before 62 such as disability or survivors benefits.

Please, use the Retirement Age Calculator to find out your full retirement age:

Filing an online application for Social Security retirement

By applying online at SSA.gov you are making sure the application process is full proof. If you are not tech savvy, ask for help. There are several agencies such as the Eldercare network who can help you apply online for your benefits.

When you file online, you don’t have to wait in lines or wait months for an appointment. If you need to stop or pause your application for any reason, then the application will be saved for your return. No one can say they lost your application and if you have mobility issues, then you don’t have to leave the house or trust the postal service. It is further recommended to file electronically that way you have less of a wait for your benefits application to be processed. You will receive a personalized call in the event there are any questions about your application. Applying online is effortless, and it saves time and resources.

Who can apply for retirement benefits online

People arriving at SSA age can apply for benefits online, including authorized representatives of the retiring applicant if they:

  • are 61 years and 8 months old;
  • are not receiving benefits on your own Social Security record;
  • have not applied for retirement benefits; and
  • want benefits to start no more than 4 months in the future.

Working while you receive benefits

If you wish to work and draw your retirement, it is a possibility but you have to consider the amounts you can earn. The government caps the earnings (they allow you to earn a certain amount, anything over the cap reduces your benefits). For example the income cap was $46.920 if you are over full retirement age. If you are under full retirement age, the cap was $17,640. It is important to note that you do not get a full social security check if you work. If you are under retirement age you one dollar less for every two you earn. If you are over retirement age, they deduct it at a rate of one dollar for every three. If you work overseas for over 45 hours a week, then you don’t get your SSA check.

Benefits are reduced by age

If you are under full retirement age, you will not be eligible for the same amount of money as you would if you were of full retirement age. For example, if you sign up for your retirement at 62 then the amount you are eligible is reduced by 30% and that figure goes down by 5% at 63 and 64 then goes down to 13.3% at 65 and then reaches 100% benefit payout by 67.

Making the calculations for retirement

It is vital that you use the retirements benefit calculator to figure out your pension. If you don’t, then you may be in for a surprise. It makes sense to use the calculator so you can do some advanced planning and see if it is viable for you to collect a check now, or keep on working, or both. Remember that not everyone pays the same amounts into SSA so don’t count your benefits on what your friend says they get.

You can use the Retirement Estimator to evaluate your pension:

Documents needed for applying

The applicant will need the following documents for filling an online retirement application.

  • Proof of your or your spouses socia security number (you’ll need your spouses details if you are applying under their benefits or if you are applying for medicare as well);
  • Proof of Birth/proof of citizenship (those naturalized will have show; proof of citizenship);
  • Proof of last year’s earnings. Either W2 or self-employment;
  • Any service records if you were in the US military.

If you are over 65 and also applying for Medicare, then you will need to show proof you have medical insurance coverage through an employer to avoid a penalty. 

Information needed to be listed on the application

Your application must contain basic information about yourself and your family and your application must include the following. If you are applying for a deceased or ex-spouses benefits, then make sure you have all of their details at your disposal:

  • Your name;
  • Your date of birth;
  • Evidence of US military service;
  • Current and former employment details for the last 2 years;
  • Any record of the past 2 years of self employment if any;
  • Direct deposit information;
  • Evidence of marriage or divorces;
  • Names and dates of birth of any disabled children who were disabled before 22 or any children who are unmarried and/or still attending school and are under 19 (you can get SSA benefits for them as well).

Filing out government forms can be a daunting task but if you follow the steps below, the process of filing for your retirement will be easy.

Step one: open a browser (google, edge, Firefox) and type into the address bar www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement. This will take you to a page where you can choose to start a new application, or return to an existing one.

Step two: If this is your first time doing an application then you will need to create an SSA account if you do not have one already. To create an account, you need to give basic information about yourself such as your social security number and date of birth. Once you have set up the account, you can proceed.

Step Three: The application begins by asking your name, social security number, date of birth and when you want your benefits to start. After the basic biographical information you fill out the employment and work section, then submit the application after reviewing your answers. Even if you do not have all the information you require, you should still proceed with an application and send on the documents needed at a later time. 

How long does it take to be approved for retirement benefits

After filling out your application you may receive a call from an SSA agent to clarify any answers on the application. The application takes approximately 6 weeks to process. If any documents are required they will be asked for in due course. After the application has been processed and approved or denied, you will receive a letter in the mail advising the decision. Make sure you save a copy of your application to your computer and write down your application id for future reference or to check application status.