When to Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits

When Can You File for Social Security?

The earliest when you can apply for Social Security benefits is at age 61 and nine months, and you can expect to receive your first payment four months later—the month after your birthday. Typically, Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due or must be specified. For example, the Social Security website states that an individual who wants their benefits to start in May will receive their first benefit check in June.

For example, if you turn 62 on Dec. 15, then your first full month of eligibility is January, and your payment for that month will arrive in February. If you have already reached age 62 and met all other eligibility criteria, then you may begin collecting benefits in the same month when you apply if you specify, although your first payment still would not arrive until the following month.

Key Takeaway

  • For Social Security income, the youngest age when you can apply is 61 years and nine months old.
  • You would then receive your first Social Security check four months later—the month after your 62nd birthday.
  • While it typically takes several weeks to process a new application, some may be approved in the same month when you apply.

Should I Wait Until Full Retirement Age to Apply for Social Security?

Receiving Social Security at age 62 (the earliest age when you can receive benefits) means that you will receive a reduced payment compared with waiting for full retirement age. For those born in 1960 or later, the reduction is 30%, and all reductions are permanent. If you delay taking your benefits past full retirement age, then you receive an 8% increase for each full year that you do so, up until you reach 70, at which point the increases stop.

Every individual can calculate their own “full retirement age” based on their specific birthday, to consider locking in the maximum amount of Social Security benefits.


The amount that your monthly Social Security benefit increases for each year that you delay taking benefits past full retirement age (until you reach age 70, at which point the increases stop)

The Application Process

Applying for Social Security benefits is a fairly simple process. Applications can be submitted online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office (although those offices are open by appointment only).

The most convenient way to apply is through the online platform found on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website. The application itself takes about 10 to 30 minutes and can be saved at any point for future completion. Also, this application can be used to apply for Medicare.

It is generally recommended that you apply a few months in advance of when you would like to start receiving the checks. To ensure a quick and easy application process, it is best to have all the necessary information on hand before beginning. This can include but is not necessarily limited to the birth and marriage dates of you and your spouse, your Social Security number, proof of citizenship, tax information, employment history, military records, and bank account information for direct deposit.

Requests for Documents

Sometimes there are requests for documents, including original birth certificates, marriage licenses, and tax returns. An agent usually contacts you if any clarification or additional documentation is needed. An agent may also let you know if you are eligible to receive more money through another person’s account, such as a spouse, and if anyone else is eligible to receive benefits under your account.

Once you have completed your application and supplied all requested information, you are given a receipt for your records and a confirmation number that you can use to check the status of your application online after submission. You can also follow up over the phone or in person at your local Social Security office. Depending on your situation and what documentation may be required, your application may be approved within the same month when you apply.

Payment Schedules

In addition, benefit payment schedules are now dictated by date of birth. For those with birthdays from the first to the 10th of the month, payments will be made on the second Wednesday of every month. For those born from the 11th to the 20th, payment is made on the third Wednesday of the month. For those born from the 21st to the 31st, payments are made on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

This means that if you turn 62 on Dec. 15, then your first payment will arrive on the third Wednesday of the following February. If your birthday is Dec. 15 and you are already over age 62, then your first payment should arrive on the third Wednesday of the month following the month when you apply. If you’re already on Social Security or receive both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, then you may receive them on a different date.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits: Apply for Retirement Benefits: How Early Can I Apply?

  2. Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits.”

  3. Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits: Full Retirement and Age 62 Benefit By Year Of Birth.”

  4. Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits,” Page 4.

  5. Social Security Administration. “Am I Eligible for an In-Person Appointment During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

  6. Social Security Administration. “Apply for Social Security Benefits.”

  7. Social Security Administration. “Apply for Retirement Benefits: Gather Information You Need to Apply.”

  8. Social Security Administration. “Apply for Retirement Benefits: Once You’ve Applied.”

  9. Social Security Administration. “Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments 2020.”

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.