When you are approaching 62 for Social Security and 65 for Medicare, you should be thinking about applying for benefits.
So what do you need to think about?
First, you should either do a lot of research and reading to figure out the system or consult an Elder Care Lawyer to advise you on how to maximize your benefits.
Second, you need to think about how and when to apply for both Social Security and Medicare.
Three ways to apply for Social Security
When it comes time to apply for Social Security retirement benefits, you have three options. You can use the Social Security Administration's online application process, by phone, or at your local Social Security office.
Whichever method you feel most comfortable using, your application will be reviewed and processed as soon as all your documentation and information is received.
The Social Security Administration should notify you if you qualify for higher benefits based on your spouse's record, or if other family members can receive benefits on your work record. However, it is best to know this yourself to ensure you are maximizing your benefits.
When Can you apply?
In order to apply for Social Security benefits, you need to be at least 61 years and nine months old, but you won't get benefits until you turn 62.
It is best to apply for benefits four months before the date you want your benefits to start to ensure there are no problems.
Bear in mind that Social Security benefits are paid in the month after they are due. So, if you start your benefits on your 62nd birthday, you won't start receiving payments until the following month.
When Should you Apply?
Now this is the tricky question. In short, the earlier you apply, before age 65, the less you get. And, the longer you wait to apply after age 65 (up to 70) the more you will get. The system is quite complex with a lot of moving parts. You should consider consulting an Elder Care Lawyer to advise you on how to maximize your benefits. This link does a deeper dive on these points.
Apply for Medicare
You are entitled to Medicare to pay your health insurance at age 65 and there is no benefit to delaying taking the insurance. In fact, delaying your application for Medicare can result in higher premiums (how does the government think?).
So you should still fill out the benefit application just to apply for Medicare four months before you turn 65. As long as you've earned enough Social Security credits, you are eligible for Medicare whether or not you are ready to begin receiving your retirement benefits.
What information will you need?
In order to apply for Social Security benefits, you'll need some information.
- Your date and place of birth (which you need to document with a birth certificate)
- Your Social Security number
- Your spouse's Social Security number and date of birth
- Place of marriage
- Date of divorce or death of your spouse, if applicable
- Names of your unmarried children under 18
- Your bank account information if you want your benefits directly deposited
- The name and address of your employers from this and last year
- The amount of money you earned last year, this year, and your estimated earnings next year
- A copy of last year's W-2 or self-employment tax return
- Your earnings record (a copy of your Social Security statement has this information)
- Records of any active duty military service before 1968
If you use the online or phone application, you'll be given a list of required documents, as well as instructions of how to submit them.
A complete list can be found on the SSA's website here.