How to Retire Early on Social Security

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Social Security is a U.S. government program designed to provide financial support for individuals who have contributed to the national Social security program through their career. Individuals who reach their full retirement age and apply for Social Security benefits will receive monthly payments from the federal government. For various reasons, some individuals decide to apply for benefits early before they reach their full retirement age.

Things You'll Need

  • Social Security number
  • Birth certificate
  • Bank name
  • Bank account number
  • Most recent W2 and IRS tax return
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship

Understand the financial penalties of retiring early on Social Security. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will deduct a portion of your monthly Social Security retirement payment if you apply to retire early before you reach your full retirement age. This age varies from 65 to 67, depending on your year of birth. For example, if you retire at age 62 and your full retirement age if 65, your monthly retirement payment will be reduced by 20 percent.

Decide how you wish to apply for early Social Security retirement. You may apply online through the SSA electronic application (see Resources). You may also apply in person at the administration's local office (see Resources) or by telephone at 800-772-1213.

Fill out the application. An SSA official will be available to answer any questions and guide you through the process if completing an application in person. If you are using the electronic application, follow the on-screen prompts. If submitting an application via telephone, a voice will prompt you along each step and offer guidance when you request it.

Enter your personal information, such as your name and address. Provide your Social Security number, as well as the tax information copied from your most recent W2 and tax return. This allows the SSA to double-check its records and track your earnings to ensure accuracy.

Provide your bank name and bank account number. All early retirement payments are distributed through direct deposit and will be sent automatically every month.

Show proof of identity and citizenship. You must have a certified copy of your birth certificate, as well as a passport or citizenship card if you were born abroad. If you are not applying in person, you will need to send these identification items to the address provided or take them in personally to be reviewed by an official at your local office.

Submit the application. The telephone and online applications will prompt you at the end of the application and instruct you to press the appropriate keypad or on-screen button. If you are applying in person, the Social Security official will review your form and submit it to the federal processing office. Your retirement benefits will be distributed when all of the documentation has been received and processed.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider working while simultaneously receiving early retirement benefits, as this may result in a much higher monthly payout when you reach your full retirement age. Apply for benefits four months before you wish to start receiving the payments.
  • Consult a tax adviser, as your Social Security payments may be counted as taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service.

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