Social Security Retirement Benefits: How to Apply

Last updated May 27th, 2021

When you start approaching retirement age, it is worthwhile considering if it is time to start accessing your Social Security retirement benefits. These are a great source of financial support in your old age, but you have a specific window of time when you must apply.

The simplest way to register for these essential benefits is online, although it can also be done over the phone too by calling 1-800-772-1213. This article will instruct you in:

  • Who may apply for Social Security retirement benefits
  • What you will need to make an application online
  • The steps necessary to apply for your benefits
  • When you should apply for these benefits

Who Can Get Social Security Retirement Benefits?

The Social Security retirement age is 62, but you may apply three months before your 62nd birthday if you wish. You can register for your retirement benefits at any time between the age of 61 and 8 months and 70.

In addition to this age criteria, you will also be considered eligible for these benefits according to the following:

  • You have a valid Social Security number
  • You have at least 40 Social Security credits (equivalent to 10 years of work)
  • You have enough verified earnings on your Social Security record

How to Apply Online For Social Security Retirement Benefits

If you meet the correct eligibility criteria, you can apply online in a few simple steps to withdraw money from your social security retirement benefits. To do so, you will need to ensure you hold the correct information available and that you follow the right procedures.

What You Will Need to Apply

To apply online you will need to have a few important documents handy. This will include a number of your vital records.

In order to move ahead with your application, you will need the following:

  • Your original birth certificate
  • Your Social Security card
  • Your marriage license or divorce papers
  • The name and birthdates of any children who are disabled, unmarried, 18 or younger, or are 19 and still attending school full time
  • Your employment or self-employment details covering the current year and the previous two years
  • U.S. Military service details
  • Your bank’s direct debit deposit information

Steps to Applying for Retirement Benefits

It is quite easy to register for your retirement benefits online and the process takes less than half an hour to complete. To apply now simply follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the documentation required for your application
  2. Visit
  3. Click on “Retirement”
  4. Click on the “Apply Online for Retirement Benefits” button
  5. Choose “Start a new Application”
  6. Follow the instructions and add your details as guided
  7. Sign in to your my Social Security account (if you don’t have one you will be directed to create one).
  8. Complete the application

What Is the Payment Schedule for Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Once your application has been successfully submitted and approved you will receive your first payment one month later. That is unless you applied at age 61 and 8 months, in which case it will be paid one month after your 62nd birthday.

The day of the month you receive your benefits is dictated by your date of birth. This is organized in the following way depending on your DOB:

  • DOBs between the 1st and the 10th: Payment is made on the 2nd Wednesday of the month
  • DOBs between the 11th and the 20th: Payment is made on the 3rd Wednesday of the month
  • DOBs between the 21st and the end of the month: Payment is made on the 4th Wednesday of the month

When to Apply for Social Security Benefits

You don’t need to wait until the federal retirement age (66 years and 10 months old onwards) to apply for your social security benefits. However, the earlier you start receiving these payments the less money you will have to use in the long run.

Obviously, if you need to start drawing from your retirement benefits when you reach eligibility at the age of 62 then you should do so. However, it is usually better to wait until you really need this money. Remember: you may still apply for these benefits up until the age of 70.

Waiting a few years before you start withdrawing can help ensure that you always have funds available from your Social Security account during your retirement. Also, you can benefit from an 8% increase per year of your total retirement benefit balance for each extra year you wait.

Having enough money in retirement is becoming especially vital as more and more people are living longer, with the average life expectancy frequently reaching 80+ years. Therefore it is wise to think carefully about your options when you choose the time to withdraw your Social Security retirement benefits.