Q: What's the easiest way to apply for retirement benefits?
A: The easiest way to apply for retirement benefits is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. It's easy and secure. You can complete it in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required.
Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need more information. You also can apply by calling our toll-free number, (800) 772-1213, or TTY at (800) 325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Our representatives will make an appointment to take your application over the telephone or at a local Social Security office.
Q: How can I get an estimate of my retirement benefits?
A: Use our online Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. There, you can enter certain identifying information about yourself, including your name, date of birth, Social Security number, place of birth, and mother's maiden name. If the personal information you provide matches our records, you can enter your expected retirement age and future wages. The online application will combine your earnings data Social Security has and provide you a quick and reliable online benefit estimate.
You can even enter different “what if” scenarios to find out what your benefits will be in different situations. A Spanish-language calculator is available at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador.
In addition, you can obtain your online Social Security Statement, which provides estimates of future benefits, as well as a record of your earnings to make sure your past earnings are reported correctly. Find the online Statement at www.socialsecurity.gov/statement.
This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at (800) 772-1213.