How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

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Social security is more than a retirement plan: it not only helps elderly in the U.S. but it also helps workers who become disabled, families in which a parent or spouse died and wounded military personnel. In the United States, today, more than 50 million people depend on Social Security Benefits during their retirement. When you turn 62, you are able to start the retirement benefits. Social Security is a program run by the federal government. The program works by using taxes paid into a trust fund to provide benefits to people who are eligible. You’ll need a Social Security number when you apply for a job and to get the benefits at the end of your working carreer. In this article we discuss how you can apply and what is important to keep in mind before you do so. 

Before You Apply

Before you apply it is important to understand how you qualify for social security benefits. This means that you should be at least 62 years old, or disabled or blind and have enough work credits. In case you are a family member and you qualify for benefits of a work record of your spouse, you won’t need the work credits. Workers who do not have accrued 40 credits (that is approximately 10 year of apployment), are not eligible. 

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Paying into the Social Security program during your working years qualifies you for old age (or retirement) benefits. Full insurance requires the collection of 40 quarters, or “credits,” from insured wages, with a worker earning up to four credits each year. For 2021 (and $1,510 in 2022), one credit is given for every $1,470 in earnings, which is modified annually to keep up with inflation.

How Much Will I Receive? 

How much you might receive depends on a few factors: The earnings you have made so far (depends on the credits), the age at which you will begin receiving benefits and whether you’ll be eligible to receive a spouse’s benefit instead of your own. 

Starting at age 62, spouses who didn’t work or didn’t earn enough credits to qualify for Social Security on their own might receive benefits based on their spouse’s employment record. A spouse’s benefit will be cut if they claim benefits before reaching full retirement age, just as it will be if they claim benefits on their own record. The maximum spousal benefit that can be received is half of what their spouse is entitled to at full retirement age.

Something else to keep in mind is the following: Individual taxpayers with income exceeding $25,000 and married couples filing jointly with income exceeding $32,000 must pay taxes on their Social Security benefits.

Application

Application for social security benefits can be done in person, by phone or online. You can apply 4 months before you want your retirement benefits to start. You’ll need the following documents in order to get the application done:

  • Social security card 
  • Birth certificate or other proof of your age
  • If you were not born in the USA: proof of U.S. citizenship (or lawful alien status)
  • If you served in the military before 1968 you’ll need military service papers
  • A copy of your W-2 form or tax return for last year

In case you don’t have all the documents, it is possible to provide the missing documents later. It is also possible to go to a local social security office if you cannot find all of your documents. They will help you further with your application. 

Make sure you apply before you turn 70 years old. This is the last age at which you can apply for benefits. Your monthly amount increases for each month you delay the start of benefits beyond FRA. This “delayed retirement credit” (DRC) entails a boost of 8% for every year you postpone retirement. There is no incentive to delaying the start of benefits past the age of 70 because DRCs end when you reach that age.

It could take up to three months for you to get your first benefit payment after you’ve applied. Social Security benefits are paid monthly, beginning the month following your full retirement age birthday (which is currently 66 and will gradually rise to 67 over the next several years). The day of the month on which you receive your benefit is usually determined by your birthday or the birthdate of the individual on whose record you are collecting benefits.

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