How and When To Apply for Social Security
For many Americans, Social Security makes up about 40% of pre-retirement income for the average worker. With it making up such a large portion of one’s retirement, an important question to ask yourself is, “Do I know how to get the most out of my Social Security?”
This is the third post in our series on how to maximize your social security benefits. In earlier posts, we discussed how Social Security eligibility is determined and we shared some basic facts about Social Security. In this post, we’ll talk about how and when to apply for social security benefits.
How soon can I start taking benefits?
You can start taking benefits as early as age 62, or earlier, if you or your working spouse is disabled.
How to Apply: You should apply three months before you want to begin receiving your monthly checks. You can claim your Social Security benefits on the Social Security Administration website; however, it’s a good idea to make an appointment and speak with a Social Security Administration representative.
Visit the Social Security Administration website for a checklist of the documents you’ll need. Don’t wait until you have all your required documents before contacting Social Security Administration as you could lose benefits.
I’m unsure about when to retire…now what?
If you’re unsure whether to retire early and don’t want to miss checks that you are eligible for, you can use a Protective Filing Statement to save your application filing date for six months or more. This could help protect thousands of dollars for you.
A Protective Filing Statement is merely a placeholder that tells the Social Security Administration that you intend to make a claim for your benefits. It’s as simple as stating (either by phone or in writing), “I wish to claim social security benefits.” If you then apply at a later date, it will be like getting back pay from the date you saved with your Protective Filling Statement. If you decide you want to wait and allow your benefits to grow, you can simply let it expire.
When should I start taking benefits?
Many Americans aren’t sure about the best time to claim benefits. Someone may have told you to start taking your benefits early. However, if you start taking Social Security benefits before your Full Retirement Age, your benefits may be as much as 33% lower. You lose up to 6.6% off of your monthly checks for each year under your Full Retirement Age.
Others may have told you to wait until age 70 to start benefits. By waiting, you receive an additional 8% (7.5% or less if born before 1943) per year of Delayed Retirement Credits past your Full Retirement Age (up to age 70). If you wait until age 70 (instead of starting at age 62), it would typically take you about 8 years—or until about age 78—to break even. So which is the right answer? Unfortunately the best option for one person isn’t always the right fit for another.
If you have questions about how and when to start your Social Security benefits, please share them here or contact me directly.
As always, get the facts and do the math!