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Ready to Retire? Here’s How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

Retiring can be an exciting part of life — you can finally relax and take on some hobbies you’ve never had time for. But it can also be confusing — especially when it comes to applying for your earned Social Security benefits and making sure your health insurance is lined up. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through the basics below. 

Before you apply, make sure you know when you’d like to begin receiving your Social Security benefits — for instance, if you turn 65 in November 2024, you might want to begin receiving your benefits then. Note that you can begin receiving your Social Security money as early as age 62 for a smaller payout, or wait till age 70 to receive your largest monthly benefit amount. Here’s the maximum amount you can receive.

We’ll explain everything you’ll need to have on hand when you start your Social Security application and how to apply. For more, here’s the Social Security payment schedule. 

Gather this info before applying for Social Security benefits

When you’re ready to apply for your Social Security benefits, you’ll need this information on hand. 

Personal information: 

  • Your Social Security number
  • Where you were born (city, state, country)

Employment information:

  • Names of employers for the past two years
  • Dates of employment

Current and past spouse information:

  • Your current or former spouse’s Social Security number and birthday
  • Date you got married or divorced
  • Where you got married (city, state, country)

Banking details:

  • Routing and account number for your bank account

Name of eligible children: 

  • Your children could be eligible for benefits if they’re under age 18, or 18 or 19 and still in high school, or who became disabled before 22.

How to apply for Social Security benefits

When you’re ready to apply for Social Security benefits, go to If you haven’t yet created a Social Security account, you’ll need to now. Create a free My Social Security account. 

From here, you’ll select who you want to apply for and what you want to apply for. Your choices include several types of benefits, including retirement, family, disability and survivor benefits. Once you’ve made your selection, click Learn how to apply.

Next, you’ll scroll down to the box that says “Submit an application.” Click Start application and read through the terms of service and check the “I agree” box to move on to the next step. 

If you haven’t already, you’ll be prompted to sign in to your My Social Security account before you start the application, and you’ll need to verify your email address. Follow the onscreen prompts to complete the application.

If you need help applying, you can also set up an appointment with a Social Security agent by calling 800-772-1213. They can either set up a phone or an in-person appointment.

When will I hear back about my application?

Once your application has been submitted, the Social Security Administration says you should get a letter in the mail within 30 days of the month you requested your benefits to start. Your letter will either confirm your benefits are approved or will ask for more information. 

You can also keep tabs on your application by checking the status with this Social Security tool.

Once you begin receiving Social Security benefits, you may still need to file your taxes — find out here. Also, here’s what would happen to your Social Security check in the event of a government shutdown.

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