Q: How long does it take to complete the online application for retirement benefits?
A: It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation to mail in. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. To retire online, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
A: This answer applies to wives as well as husbands — even if your spouse has never worked under Social Security, your spouse at full retirement age can receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. This assumes you were married at least 12 months (or 10 years if you were divorced) and that he did not pay into a government pension plan that offsets Social Security. If he receives a pension from federal, state or local government based on work where he did not pay Social Security taxes, any benefits he receives may be offset. Spouses cannot receive benefits on your record until you begin receiving retirement benefits, however. Learn more by reading Retirement Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html.
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.