How to Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits

In this article...
  • If you qualify for federal government retirement benefits, you'll likely get them through the Social Security Administration. Find out how and when to apply for these benefits.
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Social Security benefits are available for several purposes. In some cases, people receive Social Security disability payments, for example. But the most common thing people think of related to the Social Security Administration (SSA) is retirement benefits.

Find out more about who qualifies for SSA retirement payments and how to apply for yours below.

Who Is Eligible for Retirement Income via the SSA?

The Social Security retirement benefits system is one that relies on credits. You earn credits toward retirement benefits by working and paying taxes toward Social Security.

If you were born after 1929, you need 40 credits to qualify for retirement benefits. That's equivalent to 10 years of work, but you don't have to work all 10 years in a row. You just have to accrue 10 years of qualifying work within your lifetime before you seek retirement benefits.

You can also get benefits via a surviving spouse benefit. That means that if one spouse is the primary income earner in a marriage, the other spouse is able to draw benefits without meeting the 10-year requirement if their significant other passes away.

How Much Are Social Security Retirement Benefits?

The amount of your benefits depends on how much you earned throughout your life.

Typically, your monthly Social Security income is a fraction of your average monthly earnings over the course of your working life. Because of this, many financial experts advise people to start retirement planning as early as possible.

Invest in 401k plans, pension benefits and other retirement savings options to supplement Social Security retirement benefits. 

How Do You Apply for SSA Retirement Benefits?

You can apply for Social Security benefits online via the SSA's benefits application form. The SSA says that you should apply four months before you want your retirement benefits to start. 

You can also apply via phone by calling 800-772-1213. When Social Security Administration offices are open to the public, you can also get help with applying for benefits in your local office.