Dear Rusty: I’m a few weeks away from my 61st birthday in November 2022. I was wondering how far before my 62nd birthday next year I need to file my Social Security benefits to get my first check in the same month I turn 62? I usually have a part-time job during the winter months – but that job didn’t materialize in the fall of 2022. So I don’t want to waste time getting that first check that arrives by the time I turn 62 in November 2023. I don’t want to take the risk of delays in starting my Social Security retirement benefits as I am not currently working. Signed: Ready to retire soon
Best Ready to Retire: Unless you were born on November 1 or 2, you will first qualify for Social Security in December 2023. That’s because you have to be 62 for the entire month before you can get Social Security for that month. If you were born on November 1 or 2, November 2023 will be your first eligibility month and you will receive your first payment in December. But if you turn 62 after November 2, your first month of eligibility will be December 2023 and your first payment will be received in January 2024 (Social Security pays benefits in the month following the month in which they are earned).
Social Security recommends that you apply for your retirement benefits about 3 months before you want your payments to begin, but you can apply up to four months before. When you complete the application, there will be a question asking when you want your benefits to start, and you must select the one that says, “I want to start benefits with the earliest possible month and will accept an age-related reduction.” Please note that the amount of your 62-year-old benefit will be permanently reduced (your 62-year-old benefit will be 70% of the amount you would receive at full retirement age (FRA) of 67).
By applying as suggested above, you will receive your first Social Security benefit as early as possible, but you should also know that the exact date of your payment will depend on the day of the month you were born. If you were born between the 1st and the 10th of the month, you will receive your payment on your bank account every 2nd Wednesday of the month; if you were born between the 11th and 20th of the month, you will receive your payment every 3rd Wednesday of the month; and if your birthday is after the 20th of the month, the payment will be in your account every 4th Wednesday of the month.
You can apply for benefits by making an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 or by calling your local SS office, but the most efficient way to apply is online at www.ssa. gov/retire. To apply online, you must first create your personal “my social security” online account, which is easy to do at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.