If you're planning to retire soon, you're probably already thinking about what else you'll do to fill that time, like a new hobby. Getting to this point can be a little tricky — especially when it comes to claiming your earned Social Security benefits and making sure your health insurance is up to date. Don't worry, we'll walk you through the basics below.

Before you sign up, make sure you know when you'd like to start receiving your Social Security benefits — for example, if you turn 65 in November 2024, you might want to start receiving your benefits then. Note that you can start receiving Social Security money as early as age 62 for a smaller payment, or wait until age 70 to receive the highest monthly benefit amount. Here is the maximum amount you can receive.

We'll explain everything you need to have on hand when starting your Social Security application and how to apply. For more information, here is the Social Security payment schedule.

Gather this information before applying for Social Security benefits

When you're ready to claim your Social Security benefits, you'll need this information on hand.

Personal information:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Where were you born (city, state, country)

Employment Information:

  • Names of employers in the last two years
  • Employment dates

Current and former spouse information:

  • Social Security number and date of birth of your current or former spouse
  • Date you got married or divorced
  • Where did you get married (city, state, country)

Bank data:

  • Routing and bank account number

Name of eligible children:

  • Your children may be eligible for benefits if they are under age 18, or age 18 or 19 and still in high school, or if they became disabled before age 22.

How to claim Social Security benefits

When you're ready to apply for Social Security benefits, go to ssa.gov/apply. If you haven't already created a Social Security account, you'll need to do so now. Create one for free My Social Security account.

From here, you will select who you want to sign up for and what you want to sign up for. Your choices include several types of benefits, including retirement, family, disability, and survivor benefits. After making your selection, click Find out how to sign up.

You will then scroll down to the box that says “Submit an application”. Click Launch application and read the terms of service and check the “I agree” box to move to the next step.

If you haven't already, you will be asked to sign in to your My Social Security account before starting the application and will need to verify your email address. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the application.

If you need help applying, you can also make an appointment with a Social Security agent by calling 800-772-1213. They can schedule a phone or in-person appointment.

When will I receive a response about my application?

After your application is submitted, the Social Security Administration says you should receive a letter in the mail within 30 days of the month you requested your benefits begin. Your letter will confirm that your benefits were approved or request more information.

You can also track your application by checking the status with this Social Security tool.

Once you start receiving Social Security benefits, you'll still need to file your taxes – find out here. Plus, here's what would happen to your Social Security check in the event of a government shutdown.