All You Need To Know About Applying For Social Security
Applying for Social Security benefits? It doesn’t have to be a daunting, demanding process that makes you wish you could turn back the clock to when you were working full-time and bringing home a regular paycheck. Let’s face it: You’ve worked for years, and you’ve earned the benefits that will help you better manage your finances during retirement.
Here, we clarify when and how to apply for Social Security, and what you can expect throughout the process. After all, getting benefits that you deserve should be welcome, not worrisome.
When To Apply
A good rule of thumb is to plan on applying for Social Security at least several months before you want to start receiving benefits. The best age for taking benefits depends upon your individual situation; there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to determining when you should begin collecting benefits.
Keep in mind that if you’re claiming Social Security retirement benefits, it could take at least six weeks for your application to be processed, but if the agency is backlogged or your application contains incorrect information, it could take up to three months before benefits kick in. However, you can’t apply for benefits more than four months in advance of when you want them to begin.
That being said, certain guidelines may help you determine your own personal timeline for taking Social Security.
Factors To Consider:
• You’ll receive a higher monthly check if you delay starting your benefit until full retirement age or later
• Earnings History
• Marital status
• If you have a prior spouse
• If you have young children
• Other sources of income such as government pensions
According to Chuck Czajka, CEO of Macro Money Concepts in Stuart, Florida, “The best way to look at Social Security benefits and when to take them is to optimize them with other retirement plans. In many cases, it might make sense to postpone taking benefits and utilize other retirement assets first.”
By thinking about your retirement planning holistically, and the role of Social Security benefits, you may be able to lower the taxes you pay on your Social Security or perhaps eliminate taxes entirely, depending on your income. This type of retirement planning can be complicated, so it may be beneficial to consult a financial advisor.
How To Apply
There are three ways to apply for Social Security benefits.
(1) Visit The Social Security Office
If you’re not technologically efficient, visiting your local Social Security office might be the best option when it comes to completing your benefits application. Daniel Vredeveld, CFP, a financial advisor at Richmond Brothers in Jackson, Michigan says, “It usually helps to work directly with someone, that way you can avoid making accidental mistakes.”
(2) Schedule A Phone Appointment
A phone appointment offers convenience as well as the opportunity to speak directly with a representative. Call your local office or the national line at 1-800-772-121, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
(3) Apply Online
According to Wade Pfau, a professor at the American College of Financial Services in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, applying online isn’t overly complicated or time-consuming. You’ll be able to view the entire Social Security application form before beginning the process. Mark Wilson, founder of MILE Wealth Management in Irvine, California, touts the ease with which the online Social Security application can be completed.
“The online application process can work for most clients,” says Wilson.
But keep in mind that before applying online, you’ll want to have an idea of which benefit options are available and which choices make the most financial sense for you.