When to Sign Up for Social Security (and How)

As you look toward your retirement years, you may have questions about Social Security. This government program serves as a source of income for many retirees and their families—in fact, around 52 million people received social security benefits, according to September 2023 data.

Retirement is not the only purpose of the Social Security program in the United States, but it serves the largest population.

While Social Security is not the only way most people receive income after retirement, it can provide retirees with reliable income that helps them enjoy their “golden years.”

According to many studies, retirees should be able to live comfortably on about 75% of their pre-retirement income. Social Security benefits can be an essential piece of the puzzle, although many supplement their benefits with personal savings and investments.

Since Social Security is a part of most retirement strategies, it’s important to calculate when you’re ready to retire—and when you should apply for Social Security benefits.

When Should I Apply for Social Security Benefits?

This is an important question, and the answer won’t be the same for each individual. Make plans to sit down with a retirement planning expert to help craft a strategy that works for you.

You can choose when you begin to receive Social Security benefits. If you wait until your full retirement age, you’ll receive your full Social Security benefit amount. This chart from the Social Security Administration tells you when your full retirement age begins:

(Source: SSA.gov)

Deciding when to retire and when to begin collecting retirement benefits are, in fact, two separate decisions. It’s important to note that you can still receive retirement benefits if you choose to keep working after you reach the age of retirement noted in the chart above.

You can also elect to receive Social Security benefits before you reach full retirement age, although you’ll receive a lesser percentage of your potential benefit.

There are many variables to consider when calculating your Social Security retirement benefits, including:

  • You may be required to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits.
  • Your spouse or family members may also be eligible to be paid through your Social Security benefits.
  • Social security benefits are not uniform — you’ll be paid according to your income throughout your working years.

No matter what age you decide to start receiving Social Security payments, you should apply for your benefits about four months before you want them to begin.

How Can I Apply for Social Security Benefits?

You can apply for Social Security benefits online, over the phone, or in person at any Social Security office. If you opt for the online route, you can check your eligibility status, calculate your benefits estimate, and view your annual earnings throughout your working years. 

When you apply for your benefits, you’ll need to provide several documents, including:

  • Your Social Security card
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your most recent W-2 form (or tax return, for self-employed applicants)

Other documents to consider include:

  • Proof of citizenship if you weren’t born in the United States
  • A marriage certificate if you’re applying based on your spouse’s earnings
  • Military discharge papers if you served at any point in the past

Applying for Social Security can feel complicated—and planning for retirement can feel daunting, which is why it’s important to consult a professional you can count on throughout your retirement planning process.

A Retirement Planning Partner You Can Trust

At Marietta Wealth, we want to help you build a secure future. A quality retirement plan can help you get there. As a fee-only wealth management firm, our focus is on you and your goals. Our experienced advisors can help you navigate the Social Security decision process, along with other financial topics. We want to help you find the financial freedom to pursue your dreams, whatever they may be.

Give us a call or get in touch with us today.

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