You’ve made the decision to start your social security benefit. You’ve either been counting down the days to age 62. Or, you have been delaying social security and are now ready to turn on a larger benefit. If you are looking to do some planning on when to draw social security, please read these articles. This post is meant to address the different options that you have and paperwork that you will need when you decide to actually turn on your social security benefit here in Michigan.
Getting your social security benefit estimate
Remember the good old days in which you received your social security benefit estimate via the mail each year? In order to save money, the social security administration (SSA) squashed this a few years ago. Thankfully, you can still get your benefit estimate online. You will want to visit the SSA at www.ssa.gov. Click on the my Social Security link and create an account. Although this step is not necessary for applying for social security, it is still recommended
In order to crack down on fraud, the SSA has created a pretty rigorous system to identify yourself. This will entail answering questions on your credit report like, “Which company did you take out a mortgage in 2013?” It may take you 10-15 minutes to register for your online account.
Once you are registered you will be able to see the social security benefit that you qualify for on your own record. However, this may not be the exact benefit that you will receive in retirement. For example, if you qualify for a benefit from your spouse, ex-spouse, or if you are widowed, you may receive a higher benefit than what is shown in these estimates. This is just the benefit that you qualify for given your own lifetime earnings.
When you apply for your social security benefit, you will be asked if you have reviewed your earnings record. Your social security benefit is based on the highest 35 years of earnings, so it is important to verify that your earnings record looks accurate. You will be able to view this once you create your my Social Security account online.
When to apply for social security
When you want social security to begin makes a difference when you should apply for your benefit.
You want to start your benefit right at age 62
Remember, the earliest that your social security benefit can begin is actually at 62 years and 1 month. So, if you turn 62 in March of this year, you won’t get your first social security check until April. The earliest that you can apply for social security is 3-months prior to age 62. Applying as early as possible allows you time to gather additional paperwork if needed, and ensures that you get your benefit on time.
Working past age 62 and want to begin your benefit as soon as you retire
You can apply for social security up to 4-months prior to starting your benefit. The reason that you apply for social security 3-months prior to age 62 is because your benefit doesn’t start for 1-month after you turn 62. Let’s say that you are over age 62 and know that you are going to retire in September of this year, and want to begin your benefit in October. You can apply for social security as early as June.
The Social Security Administration claims that benefits can start the same month that you apply if you are over 62. So, if you retire unexpectedly or just decide that you want your benefit to start now, it shouldn’t take long to start your benefit.
Ways to apply for your Social Security benefit in Michigan
There are three ways to apply for social security; online, at a local Social Security office, or by calling the Social Security Administration. I highly suggest applying online if you can as it is quick and easy. This breaks down the options for you.
Apply for social security online
I’ve helped many of my clients apply for social security online and typically it takes less than 15 minutes and many times requires no paperwork.
First, before applying online you will want to gather the appropriate information. The SSA provides this handy checklist of documents that you may need before applying for social security. Gather the information that is applicable to you. You will need to provide your spouse and, if applicable, ex-spouse’s information because you may be eligible for a benefit based on his or her record. If you have children under 19, you may be eligible for additional social security benefits, so you will need to have your children’s information as well. If you want direct deposit, make sure you have your bank routing and account information.
Next, apply on the social security website at https://secure.ssa.gov/iClaim/rib. As I mentioned, it should take almost no time to complete the application, but it could take a little longer if you need to look up the answer to a question. Therefore, make sure you write down the re-entry code so that you can return back to the application at any time.
Once you have submitted the application, it may ask for additional information. This may be things like birth certificates for children, marriage certificate, or divorce decree. It may provide an address to send this to or just let you know that a social security representative will be in contact.
Apply for social security in-person
Social Security makes it fairly easy to apply in-person if you feel more comfortable working with someone. You can call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule a time to meet with someone in your local office. The meetings typically will take an hour, and most people that I have talked to, say that it is an easy process. To find the Social Security office nearest you, you can go to this link.
Here are the cities in which you can apply for social security benefits in-person in Michigan:
There are certain situations which it is actually better for you to apply in-person as you can’t apply online. Those situations include:
- You are currently receiving social security benefits on your own record and now eligible for a higher spousal benefit
- Applying for a widow’s benefit
Apply for social security via a phone call
I will be honest, I’m not sure that I know anyone that has applied by calling the social security department, although I know it is an option. The telephone number to apply for benefits, is the same to book an appointment, 1-800-772-1213.
I’m not sure that I would apply for social security via the phone as you will still need to sign something and this could delay the process. If you do have questions though on your benefit, or other social security questions, this could be a good resource for you.
When to start your social security benefit and the amount that you qualify, can be confusing and a difficult decision. Thankfully, the SSA actually makes it pretty easy to apply and start your benefit, when you do make the decision to begin social security. If it is online or working with someone at a local office, starting your social security benefit, may be the easiest part of social security.