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Signing Up for Social Security—Your Trail Guide

One of the most important markers in your retirement journey is applying for Social Security. Applying for Social Security doesn’t need to be a trek up a mountain! With the right info, it can be an easy stroll. We’ve put together the answers to some of the questions you might have along your way.

Deciding When to Apply

Consider this stage mapping out your path. Here are the factors to consider:

  • Your age. Are you (and your significant other) both old enough to apply? Will one of you keep working?

  • Your eligibility. You’re eligible if you’re a U.S. citizen or a lawfully present alien and:

    • You’re 62 years old or older
    • You’re disabled or blind
    • You have the required number of work credits (earned each year you work based on your annual earnings)
  • Your income. What does your retirement income look like? Is now a good time to retire? Is it better to retire at 62 and receive partial benefits? Or wait until later and receive full benefits?

  • Your insurance coverage. You can start receiving Social Security benefits at 62. But you do not become eligible for Medicare (outside of select circumstances) until 65.

  • Your family. Do you have dependents who are eligible for benefits? Discuss your options with your family. Then make a plan that best suits your needs.

Getting Ready to Apply

Now it’s time to gather everything you’ll need so your journey is smoother.

What information should you have ready?

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Dates and locations of any marriages
  • Dates and branches of any military service
  • Names of all employers and dates of employment for the past two years
  • Self-employment income and the type of business
  • Your bank information
  • Family members who might be able to get benefits

What documents will you need?

  • Your birth certificate or other proof of age—must be the original version or a certified copy
  • Proof of citizenship if you weren’t born in the U.S. (if this is your first Social Security or Medicare claim)—must be the original or a certified copy
  • Copy of your W-2 and/or self-employment tax return—can be a photocopy
  • Copy of your military service papers (if you served before 1968)—can be a photocopy

When It’s Time to Apply

Now that you’ve determined your path and gathered your supplies, you’re ready to go!

How do you actually apply?

There are three ways to apply for Social Security:

  • Online: Social Security website
  • By phone: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778)
  • person: Your local Social Security Office (you can find your office and make an appointment using the Field Office Locator )

Can you apply if you live outside the U.S.?

Yes. You will need to contact the Federal Benefits Unit in your country of residence. You can find yours here- if you live outside the U.S. .

How will you know if your request was approved?

You’ll receive a letter in the mail telling you if your request was approved. You can check on your application online with your my Social Security account or by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Can I appeal a decision?

Yes. You can appeal a decision any time within 60 days of being notified. You can request an appeal online, by phone, or at your local Social Security Office.

Feeling lost on the trail? Let us be your guide.

Give us a Call

1-844-672-0317 (TTY: 711)
9 AM to 6 PM ET

MR496a 6/2022