You must be at least age 62 for the entire month to be eligible to receive benefits. If you were born on the first or second day of the month, you meet this requirement in the month of your 62nd birthday. If you were born on any other day of the month, you do not meet this requirement until the following month.

You can apply up to four months before you want your retirement benefits to start. For example, if you turn 62 on December 2, you can start your benefits as early as December, and apply in August.

Even if you are not ready to retire, you still should sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday.

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When you’re ready to apply for retirement benefits, use our online retirement application, the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way to apply.

Before You Apply

Before you apply, take time to review the basics, understand the process, and gather the documents you’ll need to complete an application.

Review Retirement Benefits Basics

You can start your retirement benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. If you’re preparing to apply for retirement benefits, knowing when you’re eligible to apply and how the system works are the first steps in choosing what age is right for you. Before you submit an application, go to our Learn About Retirement Benefits page to understand:

  1. How do you qualify for Social Security benefits?
  2. How your earnings and age can affect your benefits.
  3. What you should consider in deciding when to start receiving benefits.
  4. Retirement benefits for spouses and family members.
Social Security: 9 Things To Know

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Understand The Application Process

The retirement benefits application process follows these general steps, whether you apply online, by phone, or in-person:

  1. Gather the information and documents you need to apply.
  2. Complete and submit your application.
  3. We review your application and contact you if we need more information.
  4. We mail you a decision letter.
  5. You start receiving your retirement benefits.

How To Apply

Applying online is the easiest way to complete your application at a time that works for you, without a trip to the Social Security office. You can also apply by phone or at a Social Security office. This section will tell you about the different options.

Social Security: 9 Things To Know

Apply Online

Follow these steps to apply online:

  • To start your application, go to our Apply for Benefits page, read and agree to the Terms of Service. Click “Next.”
  • On that page, review the “Getting Ready” section to make sure you have the information you need to apply.
  • Select “Start A New Application.”
  • We will ask a few questions about who is filling out the application.
  • You will then sign into your my Social Security account or you will be prompted to create one.
  • Complete the application.

Watch our video, “Welcome To Our Online Retirement/Medicare Application,” for an overview of the process.

Tips For Using The Online Application

We’ve worked hard to make applying online as simple as possible while also keeping your information safe.

For security reasons, the online application gives you a warning if you leave it open and don’t do anything for 25 minutes. You can choose to extend your time on the page if you get this warning. However, after the third warning, you must move to another page or your information will not be saved.

Social Security: 9 Things To Know

Here are more tips for using the online application:

  • If you get stuck on a question, you can skip to the next question and come back later.
  • You can save your application to finish another time if needed. Next time you sign in, go to “Return to a Saved Application.”
  • You are not allowed to use periods, commas, or other special characters for some answers, including addresses. If you get a message about this, go back and enter the information without periods or other characters.

Start your application now.

Signing The Online Application

You’ll have a chance to review your answers and make changes, if needed. Once you’ve filled everything out, we’ll ask you to confirm that your answers are true to the best of your knowledge. You can be held liable for intentionally providing false or misleading information.

The last step is to “sign” the online application by clicking “Submit Now.” You can check the status of your submitted application using a confirmation number we provide.

Helping Someone Else Apply Online

You may help someone else fill out their application, but you are not allowed to sign it for them. Only the person applying for benefits can legally sign the application. If they are not able to sign online, we will mail them a copy to sign. Read more about Helping Someone Apply Online.

Apply With Your Local Office

You can do most of your business with Social Security online. If you cannot use these online services, your local Social Security office can help you apply. Although our offices are closed to the public, employees from those offices are assisting people by telephone. You can find the phone number for your local office by using our Field Office Locator and looking under Social Security Office Information. The toll-free “Office” number is your local office.

Social Security: 9 Things To Know

Apply By Phone

Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, to apply by phone.

If You Do Not Live In The U.S. Or One Of Its Territories

Contact the Federal Benefits Unit for your country of residence if you live outside the U.S. or a U.S. territory and wish to apply for retirement benefits.

Additional Information



Plan for your future and understand how Social Security fits into your retirement.

Jay Harold hopes you enjoyed this post, “Social Security: 9 Things To Know” Please share it and read more about Jay Harold here.  Please take this advice from  Muhammad Ali and give it back to others. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”