Planning for Retirement
Social Security offers complete information on how to plan for your retirement.
USE OUR RETIREMENT PLANNER
Already Receiving Benefits
If you receive retirement or spouse’s retirement benefits, you can get information and services for managing your benefits online.
MANAGE YOUR BENEFITS
Apply for Retirement Benefits
Social Security offers an online retirement application that you can complete in as little as 15 minutes. It's so easy. Better yet, you can apply from the comfort of your home or office at a time most convenient for you. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.
In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed.
If you prefer to complete your application in a language other than English, the online application will give you the option to schedule an appointment to apply for benefits in your preferred language. The online application is currently only available in English.
Questions about our Social Security Retirement Benefits Application...
Who can apply for retirement benefits online?
You can apply online for retirement benefits or benefits as a spouse if you:
- are at least 61 years and 9 months old;
- are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record;
- have not already applied for retirement benefits; and
- want your benefits to start no more than 4 months in the future. (We cannot process your application if you apply for benefits more than 4 months in advance.)
What about Medicare?
If you already have Medicare, you can still use this application to apply for retirement benefits.
If you don’t have Medicare but are within 3 months of age 65, you can use this application to apply for:
- both retirement and Medicare; or
- just Medicare, if you aren't ready to receive retirement benefits yet.
For more information, go to Medicare.
What do I need to know before I apply?
Before you apply for retirement benefits, there are certain Social Security "basics" you should know about:
- Your "full retirement age" -
Depending on your date of birth, that may be between age 66 and 67. This could affect the amount of your benefits and when you want the benefits to start.
- When you can start benefits -
You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.
- Benefits are reduced for age -
Your monthly benefits will be reduced if you start them any time before "full retirement age."
- Working while you receive benefits -
If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits.
- Delayed retirement credits -
Delayed retirement credits may be added to your benefits if they start after your full retirement age.
- Life expectancy -
If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, full retirement age, age 70 or any age in between. However, many of us will live much longer than the “average” retiree, and most women live longer than men. More than one in three 65 year olds today will live to age 90, and more than one in seven will live to age 95. Social Security benefits, which last as long as you live, provide valuable protection against outliving savings and other sources of retirement income. Again, you’ll want to choose a retirement age based on your circumstances so you’ll have enough income when you need it.
Please read Other Things to Consider for information about other things you should think about when you make your decision about when to begin your benefits. Some of the things you should think about before you decide include:
- how long you think you will receive benefits,
- your health and
- whether anyone else in your family can get benefits on your record.
You can find out what documents and information you need to apply by reading our "Checklist for Online Medicare, Retirement, and Spouses Applications."
How do I use the online application?
- Select the "Apply for Retirement Benefits" button (above).
You'll go through a series of screens that will ask you questions about yourself, your family, and your work.
- Fill out the online application.
You can complete your application in a single session or start the application now and finish it sometime later. If you:
- get stuck on a question, you can skip it and go back later. When you get to the end of the application, we'll let you know if there are any questions you still need to answer.
- can't complete your online application because you need to look something up, or for any other reason, you can "Return to a Saved Application" later without losing the information you entered.
You may not be able to use periods, commas, and other special characters when you answer some of the questions. If you use a character that a field cannot accept and you try to go to another page, you will get a message that tells you there is a problem and what caused it.
Example: You cannot use a period as part of an address. If you type "27 N. Main St." instead of "27 N Main St" in an address field, you will get a message when you try to go to the next page.
After you completely fill out the application, we will ask you to confirm the truthfulness of the answers to the best of your knowledge, under penalty of perjury, and your response will be recorded. You can be held liable for intentionally providing false or misleading information.
- "Sign" the application electronically by clicking on the "Submit Now" button. It will appear on the screen after you have finished filling out the application.
The only person who can "sign" the application is the person who is applying for benefits. A legal representative or person helping cannot sign the application. Helping Someone Apply Online.
Why apply for retirement online?
Using our online application has a number of benefits:
- You can avoid trips to your Social Security office. That saves you time and money.
- You can answer questions on your schedule. You don't have to complete the application the same day that you started it. You can start and stop the application without losing any of the information you entered.
- You will have a chance to correct mistakes. You can go back and make changes until you finish the application. You'll also be given a chance to review your answers and go back and make corrections before you submit the application.
- If you have trouble answering a question, you can find additional information in our [More Info] links.
- You don't need to mail your application. When you're finished, just click "Submit Now" to send your application to Social Security.
- You'll get a receipt for your online application. You can print the receipt and keep for your records.
- You can check the status of your online application. Your receipt includes a confirmation number you can use to check the status of your application.
However, if you choose to apply for benefits more than two months in the future, you will not be able to check the status of your application until one month before you start receiving benefits.
How long can I stay on each page?
For security reasons, there are time limits for viewing each page. You will receive a warning after 25 minutes without doing anything, and you will be able to extend your time on the page. After the third warning, you must move to another page or your time will run out and your work on that page will be lost.
What happens after I apply?
Once we receive your application, we'll review it. After the review, we will contact you if we need more information or if we need to see your documents.
We'll also let you know if...
- you may be able to receive benefits on another person's record, such as your spouse.
- other family members may be able to receive benefits on your work record.
When we have all of the necessary information and documents, we'll process your application and send you a letter about our decision in the mail.
Other ways to apply for retirement benefits
You can also apply:
- By phone - Call 1-800-772-1213. (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday.
- In person - Visit your local Social Security office. (Call first to make an appointment.)
If you do not live in the U.S. or one of its territories you can also - Contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.