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Retirement Planning

Your retirement income: What you need to know when applying for social security benefits

If you're close to retiring, you're likely looking forward to Social Security checks to supplement your income. From the application steps to pay dates, get details here.
Social Security benefits are a big part of most American's retirement income. So when you're ready to apply for your benefits, here are a few things you might want to know.

Apply 3-months early.

Sixty-two is the earliest age you can begin taking your Social Security benefits. If you want to have your payments start early, then plan on applying when you're age 61 and nine months. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends that you apply three months before you would like your first payment to arrive.

You can't apply for benefits more than four months in advance.

If you're 62 or older, the earliest you can submit your application for benefits is four months before you want your benefits to start. The SSA will not permit you to file your application if it's more than four months in advance.

Get your documents in order.

When you apply for benefits, you'll be asked to provide a number of original documents that can include birth and marriage certificates, tax returns, and military records. Be prepared and gather them ahead of time. Not having the right documents can slow the approval process.

You have to qualify for a full month to get your benefits.

Benefits are only paid for months in which you qualify for the full month. For example, if you're applying for early benefits, you must be age 62 for an entire month before your payments can begin.

When you're paid depends on your birthday.

If you were born between the first and 10th of the month, you'll be paid on the second Wednesday of the month. Birthdays between the 11th and 20th mean payment on the third Wednesday of the month, and birthdays between the 21st and the 31st are paid on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

Resources used in this article: Social Security Administration.



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