What You Should Know About Applying For Retirement

October 31, 2019 • By

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Last Updated: October 31, 2019

" "Approaching and preparing for retirement can be a daunting task, but we are here to make it as easy as possible. Social Security has eliminated the forms, signatures, wait time, and appointments. We made it easy, convenient and secure. You can complete our online retirement application in as little as 15 minutes from your preferred location, at a time most convenient for you.

Before you apply, you should think about things like how you’ll receive benefits, your health, and whether anyone else in your family can get benefits on your record. Let’s go over the basics together, just to make sure you’re on the right track for retirement, when the time comes.

The age you choose to retire affects the amount of benefits you receive and when you can start receiving them. If you start them any time before your full retirement age, we’ll reduce your monthly benefit. Depending on your year of birth, your full retirement age is likely between age 66 and 67. You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.

If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, and continue to work, it can affect your benefits. Social Security has an awesome tool called the Retirement Estimator that calculates a personal estimate of how much your benefit will be at different ages and “stop work” dates. You can use it to find the best combination for your situation.

You can read about other things to consider before you make your decision about when to begin your benefits. If you’re ready to apply, you can do it online. It’s easy, convenient, and secure!

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About the Author

Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Mike Korbey, Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. CAM

    I started my SS benes in JAN 2021 @ age 70, I need to semi retire this year since my full time work role is too much for me to handle w/expanding new responsibilities. I was told by Medicare agents that it takes on average 1.5 months to activate Medicare B so I need to inform my employer I intend to retire from the company 1.5 mos. before my end date. Please confirm, TY

    • V.V.

      Hi Cam, thanks for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for details on how to sign up for Medicare Part B when you already have Part A. We hope this helps!

  2. Gerry

    If I retire from my off the farm job before my full retirement age of 66 years and 4 months, will my farm income reduce my SS monthly payment?

    • V.V.

      Hi Gerry, thanks for using our blog. You can get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and work at the same time. However, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full benefits. The amount you’re allowed to earn while receiving benefits depends on your age. If you attain full retirement age in 2021, the earnings limit is $50,520 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you’re under full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2021, that limit is $18,960. There is a special earnings limit rule for those that retire mid-year and have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit. The special rule lets us pay a Social Security check for any whole month your earnings are $1,580 or less and you did not perform substantial services in self-employment, regardless of your yearly earnings. Check out our factsheet “If You’re Self-Employed” for more details.

      Visit our Receiving Benefits While Working web page for more details.

  3. neil p.

    how long before I retire should apply for benefits

    • V.V.

      Hi Neil, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. You can apply four months before you want your Social Security retirement benefits to start. Once you’re ready to apply, the easiest way to complete your application is online.

      If you need further assistance, call us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  4. Michelle P.

    Can you change your retirement age after the initial election?
    ie: if you elect to defer to full retirement age, can you later change to an earlier retirement age?

  5. Mark

    I own a S-Corp and want to retire. What is considered income other than earned income. I expect to work part time.

    The s-Corp pays our health insurance-is that considered income?

    • V.V.

      Thank you for the question, Mark. When we figure out how much to deduct from your benefits, we count only the wages you make from your job or your net profit if you’re self-employed. We include bonuses, commissions, and vacation pay. We don’t count pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, veterans, or other government or military retirement benefits.

      After you retire, you may receive payments for work you did before you started getting Social Security benefits. Usually, those payments will not affect your Social Security benefit if they are for work done before you retired. Check out our factsheet Special Payments After Retirement for more details.

  6. Cindy

    I’m 64 and retiring on February 1st. I was told I can start receiving SS benefits under my husband and apply for my benefits at a later date. Is this true? If so, how do I go about doing this?

    • V.V.

      Hi Cindy, thanks for using our blog to ask your questions. You may be able to get spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you’re eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

      There is an exception to deemed filing for those who turn 62 before January 2, 2016. Check out our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits web page for details.

      • Cindy

        Thank you very much for your help and quick reply!

  7. steve m.

    I am 66 and 6 months I want to plan signing up for my social security. however i am still working part time. how much can i earn before i am i have to pay extra taxes

  8. Sandy W.

    Today I am applying for retirement benefits to begin in April 2021 (month I turn 70) so that I can receive all 48 months of DRCs. My husband is filing a Restricted application for my spousal benefits ( not filing for his own so that his benefits will continue to grow(DRCs) until he is 70). Can we file both of our applications online on the same day or must he wait until I am receiving benefits???

  9. Brandon

    Thanky for sharing this article.

    Best regards

  10. Jo A.

    I appreciate your blog and info.
    I deferred my benefits and took the portion of my X husbands. I’ll be 70 on December 29, 2020. I’m getting 2 different instructions on what to do next. One article states I must file to receive my own social security benefits. I called the Social Security office and “Yolanda” explained I don’t have to file, the transition will occur automatically. Please, I would appreciate information on this. Grateful for the help.
    Jo Ann

    • V.V.

      Hi Jo Ann, thanks for using our blog. If you have never filed for your own Social Security retirement benefits, you will need to apply for them. Our system is set up to take applications four months in advance, and when you’re ready, you can apply for your retirement benefits online.

      If you are unable or do not want to apply for benefits online, you can schedule an appointment by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

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