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  • Writer's pictureChris Stein, CFP®

Applying for Social Security

We have often talked on this blog and our radio show about going to Social Security and “filing for you benefits.” All too often missed from the conversation is what you can expect when you go to file, and what information you may need to bring with you. Over the coming months we hope to share more and more about the actual experience of applying for Social Security benefits and what you can ─ and can’t ─ expect from your interaction with the Social Security system. In this, our inaugural blog post on interacting with Social Security, we share with you a few of the items you will need to bring with you to the Social Security office when applying for your retirement benefits.

You can apply for your Social Security retirement benefits online or in person at your local Social Security office. Just remember if you decide to apply online some Social Security benefits and strategies such as the File and Suspend strategy or applying for your Survivor Benefits are not available online. For those you must apply in person at your local Social Security office. However, whether you decide to file online or in person, there are certain items you may need to have with you when applying for Social Security. It is beneficial if you get most of those items in order before your scheduled meeting in person, or before you attempt to log in online and file for your Social Security benefit.

What You’ll Need

Although not all these items will be needed by every Social Security applicant, the following list is a good start for some of the information Social Security will ask you.

  1. Your Social Security number

  2. The name you were given at birth

  3. Your date of birth

  4. Your place of birth.

  5. An official copy of your birth certificate

  6. Your current marital status, including your spouse’s name, your spouse’s date of birth and their Social Security numbers, the names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of any former spouses, and of course when it comes to current spouses or former spouses, the dates and places of your marriages, and in the case of divorce the dates that your marriages ended.

  7. You will also need to bring with you the names and Social Security numbers of any unmarried children you have under the age of 18.

  8. If you are self-employed bring information with you about your self-employment

  9. If you are employed bring with you the name and address of each employer you’ve had for the last two years.

  10. If you are going to continue working bring estimated earnings for the past year and the coming year.

Other Things to Consider

In addition to the above list there are certain items that everyone will need to answer including the month you would like to begin receiving your benefits. Also, if you are within three months of turning 65, be prepared for Social Security to ask you whether or not you want to enroll in Medicare Part B. Finally, Social Security checks all arrive electronically so you will need to bring with you direct deposit numbers from the checking account you would like your Social Security check deposited. (Bringing a VOID check to your Social Security meeting would be extremely helpful.)

This is just a partial list of some of the items you may need. Not all items will be required for every applicant. The Social Security Administration’s own website at has a handy list of items they recommend you bring (many are listed here, but not all). You can also type the words: “Information you need to apply” in the search box on the Social Security homepage.

For more tips on what to bring, be sure to use the play button below and listen to the audio portion of this blog!

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