You have made your plans.
You have estimated your retirement amount with the Social Security Retirement Planner tools, researched your questions, created a personal my Social Security account and used it to review your earnings record for accuracy.
You are ready to file for Social Security retirement.
How do you do this? What questions are on the application?
Many Social Security retirement (and other) applications are completed online. SSA representatives, sometimes but usually not from your local office, review online applications and contact you if needed. The online retirement application is in the Retirement website section at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/. Clicking on the “Apply for Retirement Benefits” link brings you to helpful information, including a short video introduction. Compete the entire application at one time or save it to complete later as you prefer. Status of your completed application can be checked online.
If you cannot apply online or you decide not to finish applying online, for whatever reason, other application options are by telephone or in-person at your local office. For either of these an appointment is recommended and can be made by calling the SSA national toll-free number, 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778), from 7:00am – 7:00pm local time, Monday – Friday, standard business days. Based in part by volume, calls are routed to SSA employees in different locations of the country. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time by not calling on Monday and by timing your call for when people on either coast are less likely to be calling.
Complete your application about 3 months before you want benefits to start. Retirement applications effective for January 2016 are already being received.
Specific questions asked depend on your personal situation. For example, if you are married, expect to be asked the name of your spouse and date of marriage. Details about previous marriages, if any, are asked. If never married, there is no need to ask these questions. You are asked about military service and recent employment. These questions are to help you receive all benefits possible.
Whatever your preference in completing your application, first review this checklist to help you prepare.