How to Sign Up for Social Security

A 2018 change to how one signs up for Social Security requires all individuals to establish a “my Social Security Account” before applying for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Although this induces additional pain to the process, it facilitates access to your Social Security account information, including: your current estimated benefits; your last reported earnings, your earnings record; and access to your full Social Security benefit statement.

If you have already established your online Social Security Account, the “How to Sign up for Social Security” is fairly straightforward. Visit https://www.ssa.gov/ and select the “Retirement” icon in the top middle portion of the webpage. You will then follow the procedures to sign up for your Social Security benefit.

There are several pieces of information you must gather before applying for your Social Security and that list includes:

  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Address
  • Place of Birth
  • Citizenship
  • Other names you have used in the past
  • Employment and Self-Employment Details
  • Foreign Employment
  • Information on jobs where Social Security taxes were NOT deducted or withheld
  • Spousal Railroad Employment Information
  • Spousal Date of Birth and Social Security Number (if married)
  • Ex-Spousal Date of Birth, Social Security number, Date of Marriage and Date of Divorce (if available and if previous marriage lasted at least 10 years)
  • If Widowed, the Decedent’s Date of Birth, Date of Death and Social Security Number (if available)
  • If Divorced, but previously married for a minimum of 10 years, and your ex-spouse has died; you will need the decedent’s Date of Birth, Date of Death and Social Security number (if available). You will also need the Date of Marriage and Date of Divorce.
  • Children’s Dates of Birth and Social Security Numbers (if your children are under the age of 19, or are now adults but were disabled before age 22)
  • Verification that your current Social Security benefit statement and earnings history are correct (which can be completed by signing into “my Social Security account”).
  • Month you want benefits to begin
  • Bank routing number and account number for direct deposit of your Social Security benefit payment

The “How to Sign up for Social Security” process should take you about 20 to 30 minutes to complete and it’s important to remember this is a generic application, so many of the questions may not be pertinent to your individual situation.  During the Social Security application process, you will receive an 8 digit “re-entry number” which you should save. This re-entry number allows access to your Social Security application should you get disconnected from the Social Security site, not be able to complete your application in one session or you are unsure how to answer any questions before submitting the application for processing. 

If you plan to sign up for your Social Security benefits before full retirement age, you cannot backdate the application. The earliest date you can begin benefits is the application date. If you apply for Social Security benefits at or after your full retirement age, you can backdate your application up to six-months or to your full retirement whichever is less.

Knowing what you want prior to signing up for Social Security benefits is critical, so understanding earned, spousal, ex-spousal, survivor, ex-survivor, family, earned disability benefits, the coordination of these benefits, the earnings test, Windfall Elimination and Government Pension Offset will ensure you make great benefit decisions.

The Windfall Elimination Program (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) affect individuals who earned a life pension while “NOT” contributing to our Social Security program. The WEP will reduce Social Security Income for those who worked and contributed to Social Security for less than 30 years, and the GPO reduces spousal, survivor, ex-spousal and ex-survivor benefits.

 For those born before January 2nd, 1954 there is an additional opportunity you should be aware of. At full retirement age, these people can restrict their application to a spousal or ex-spousal benefit while allowing their personal benefit to earn delayed retirement credits (DRC) up to age 70 where income in maximized. In the fall of 2015, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 eliminating this Social Security planning strategy. Therefore, those born on January 2nd, 1954 or more recently cannot restrict benefits.

 It’s important to understand your many options before making these life income decisions. This website’s resources will help educate you on these topics and if you prefer personalized assistance to better understand your options, or if you desire help with signing up for Social Security benefits, please schedule a phone appointment with one of our specialists.

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