How to File for Retirement

File for retirement benefits
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When the time comes for retirement, properly filing for retirement is essential for obtaining the maximum benefits from all avenues of income earned throughout your years of employment. If you are at least 61 years and 9 months old, you can file for your social security retirement benefits. Your retirement benefits will begin within 4 months of your filing, so you should file for benefits when you are within 4 months of retirement.

Things You'll Need

  • Birth certificate
  • Naturalization papers
  • U.S. Military papers
  • W-2 Forms
  • Self employment tax returns (from the previous year)
  • Bank account information

File Online

Gather your paperwork. Get all the tax and benefit documents together such as W-2 forms, birth certificate, and your bank account information.

Gather documents
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Fill out the online Social Security Benefits application. Use the Social Security Benefits form on the Social Security site. The Social Security benefits application states it should take between 10 and 30 minutes to fill out the online benefits application.

fill out online form
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Submit your online application. Once you have filled in all the information required on your retirement benefits form, you can submit your application. Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed and you will be contacted via email or telephone once your application is approved.

Apply by Telephone

Gather your paperwork. To apply by telephone, gather your retirement documents such as: W-2 form, birth certificate, and bank account information.

file for retirement benefits by telephone
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Contact your Social Security office. Call the Social Security office at: 1-800-772-1213. A representative will assist you in filling out an application over the telephone. If the Social Security office is particularly busy, they may schedule a call back time to fill out your application.

Ask for confirmation. After you have filed for your benefits, request a confirmation date of when your benefits will begin. If the Social Security worker can not provide you with a date, ask that they contact you via telephone or mail when a start date is available for your benefits.

Apply in Person

Find your local Social Security branch office. Using the Social Security office locator at, type in your zip code and locate your local Social Security office. This page will also show your local office hours. Record the address and office hours.

Gather your paperwork. Gather your retirement benefit documents such as W-2 forms, birth certificate, and bank account information. Your birth certificate must be the original; all other documents can be copies. Clip all your documents together or store in an easy-to-carry folder to keep your documents secure.

Make an appointment with your local Social Security office. It is not required to make an appointment a head of time, however, it will save waiting time at the Social Security office. There will be a Social Security official to help you fill out your application.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can start your application online and finish it either by telephone or in person.
  • You can have a family member fill out your information online (with your help).
  • Keep all your documents clipped together in a binder or folder for security.
  • Do not use any website other than the Social Security website.
  • Do not give your personal information to anyone outside of the Social Security office.

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