Depending on your earnings history, Social Security promises to give you retirement payments for the rest of your life. However, Social Security benefits do not materialize on your doorway in a magical manner as soon as you reach the age of retirement.
To be honest, it can take some effort to figure out exactly how Social Security works and what you need to do in order to receive your first payment. A step-by-step guide to getting started with your Social Security retirement benefits is provided here, so you’ll have everything you need to get started.
Step 1: Determine whether or not you are eligible.
You are not immediately eligible for Social Security benefits simply because you have reached the age of retirement. First and foremost, you must be within the appropriate age range.
You can begin claiming Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 and as late as age 70, depending on your circumstances. For people who were born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67 years old.
If you claim benefits before reaching your full retirement age, your monthly payout will be permanently cut, by as much as 35 percent if you apply at the age of 62, and your monthly payout will be permanently decreased.
Waiting until you reach full retirement age will result in an increase in your monthly benefits of 8 percent each year for those who are aged 43 and up who were born after 1943.
In addition to meeting the minimum age requirement, you’ll need to meet the income requirements for Social Security. For you to be eligible for retirement payments, the Social Security Administration requires that you have 40 “quarters of coverage.”
The amount of money you must earn in order to be eligible for one-quarter of coverage changes over time in response to inflation. In 2022, $1,510 in earnings will be required to cover one-fourth of the cost of coverage.
Step 2: Gather and organize your documentation
To receive your first Social Security check, you’ll need to demonstrate your eligibility and submit the necessary documentation to the Social Security Administration. In addition, you’ll be required to give extra financial and personal details.
According to the Social Security Administration, you should prepare the following documents before applying for your first Social Security check:
- Identifying information such as your Social Security number
- Your wedding date and location, as well as information on prior marriages
- If you served in the United States military, please list your service dates and branches.
- The names and dates of employment for each of your previous two years’ employers.
- If you are self-employed, please describe your business and self-employment revenue.
- Bank account details for the bank where you wish your cheques to be deposited directly.
- Any information you have regarding family members who may be eligible for benefits based on your Social Security record is kept strictly confidential.
You may be required to provide additional information, such as your most recent W-2s or tax return, proof of your age (such as a birth certificate), a copy of your military service papers if you served prior to 1968, and proof of citizenship if you were not born in the United States if you are applying for citizenship.
Step 3: Submit an online application through the Social Security Administration’s website.
The Social Security Administration recommends it if you submit your application for benefits on the internet. Most people prefer to visit an SSA office, however, they are all closed at the time of this writing.
You may still contact the Social Security Administration for assistance. You can apply for Social Security benefits up to four months before you want to begin receiving benefits.
The process required to complete an online application with the Social Security Administration is rather straightforward:
- Visit the Social Security Administration’s “Apply for Benefits” page by clicking here.
- After you have read and agreed to the Terms of Service, click “Next.”
- Review the information in the “Getting Ready” section to ensure that you are prepared to go.
- To begin a new application, select “Start a New Application.”
- According to the questions on the application, you must identify yourself.
- Sign into your existing mySocialSecurity account or establish a new one.
- Fill out the entire application.
If you are unable to complete your application in one sitting, you can save it for later completion. As soon as you’re finished, you’ll be prompted to submit your application by electronic signature.
Step 4: Be prepared to provide any further information that may be required.
Once you’ve submitted your application, the Social Security Administration will review your responses.
If any component of your application is missing or requires explanation, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will contact you personally, so keep an eye out for any subsequent requests. If you do not respond within a reasonable amount of time, your application may be rejected.
Step 5: Understand When Your Social Security Retirement Benefits Will Be Paid
If everything checks out and the Social Security Administration finds that you are qualified for benefits, your first check will be sent to you shortly. The exact date of your payout is dependent on when you submitted your application and when you are due to receive your installments.
Consider the following scenario: if you apply four months before reaching the age of 62, you’ll have to wait until you reach the minimum retirement age before receiving benefits.
Following that, your payments will be made in the month following the month in which they are due. For example, if you owe a payment that is due to you in December, you will receive it in the following month.
The particular date on which you will receive your payment will be determined by your date of birth, as follows:
- If your birthday falls between the 1st and 10th of the month, you will receive your dividend on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.
- If your birthday falls between the 11th and 20th of the month, you will receive a payout on the third Wednesday of the month.
- If your birthday falls on the 21st through the 31st of the month, you will receive your reward on the 4th Wednesday of the month.
It is important to note that, according to federal law, all Social Security payments must be made through electronic means.
Once you complete your application, you will be given the option to choose between two payment options: a direct deposit into your bank account or a Direct Express® Debit Mastercard®.