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women reviewing a social security guideOne of the numerous services SeniorSmart provides is clear Social Security guides to help individuals and families determine what benefits they are eligible for and when to begin the process of accessing those benefits. Knowing how to sign-up for Social Security benefits can be confusing and may seem on the surface to be an overwhelming task. But having an advocate at your side in SeniorSmart’s informative resources can help.

What Is Social Security?

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935. Since then it has become the largest source of income for most older Americans with at least nine of ten seniors receiving benefits. The program is a way to ensure that as individuals age they remain in stable economic conditions. The benefits you receive from Social Security consist of the taxes that have been withheld from paychecks over the duration of your working career combined with employer contributions.

There are some basic types of benefits that the Social Security Administration offers:

  • Retirement benefits: As described above, these are the benefits individuals receive because they paid into the system.
  • Supplemental Security Income: The SSI program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. While Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are different, the medical requirements are the same. If you meet the non-medical requirements, monthly benefits are paid if you have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death.
  • Benefits for Spouses: For spouses who have not had or been able to work consistently, they can apply for spousal benefits based on their spouse’s work history. Also, there are benefits for survivors of a family member who’s passed. 

How to Sign Up for Social Security

To claim the federal benefits owed to you, you will need to make sure you have the following documentation:

  • A Social Security card
  • Your official birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • If you carried out military service prior to 1968, a copy of your military service papers
  • Copies of your W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for the previous year
  • Any marriage, divorce, or death certificates
  • You bank account information so you can set up regular deposits
  • If applying for spousal benefits, you’ll need your spouse’s Social Security number and date of birth

When you apply for Social Security can affect the number of benefits you receive. Thus, it’s important to know when the right time is to get the most out of the program as you need. If you wait until your full retirement age, which is usually between the ages of 65-67, to collect, you’ll receive the full amount of your benefits. But you can file for benefits early at 62. Doing so reduces your monthly payment by thirty percent. However, if you wait to claim benefits, the amount you’ll receive will increase. This is why some in retirement wait until they are older than their determined retirement age to claim benefits. It’s important to discuss when to claim benefits with your spouse and family so everyone gets the most out of their retirement.

Making Social Security Enrollment Easier

SeniorSmart’s mission is to make accessing the resources and information you need to make the best retirement decisions for yourself and your family. If you’re wondering about the social security enrollment process, we can help. We also provide information and advice on the following:

So reach out to us at 205.460.1124 to learn more about our services and how we can design customized advice for your specific needs.