How to Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits

Contributed by: Matt Trujillo, CFP® Matt Trujillo


There are a few different ways you can apply for social security retirement benefits. The easiest and most time efficient is simply to set up an account at and apply for benefits online.  You can also apply over the phone by calling 810-772-1213 (or 800-325-0778 if you are hard of hearing). 

Of course, you can always stop down to a social security office and apply in person.  For some of the more advanced social security strategies like file and suspend and restricted application, you will have to stop into a branch as these options are not available online. You can find your local social security office by clicking this link.

If you are currently living outside of the United States you can apply for benefits by contacting the Office of International Operations. For more information visit their website here.

When to Apply for Social Security Benefits

It’s a good idea to apply for benefits a month or two earlier than you want your benefits to actually start. This is because social security benefits are paid the month after they are due.  For instance, if you want your benefits to start in July, you will receive your first benefit check in August. If you want to receive your first benefit check in July, you need to be eligible for benefits in June and tell the SSA that you want your benefits to start in the month of June so that you will actually receive a check in July.

Social security can be a very confusing topic. It’s a great idea to consult with a qualified professional before applying for benefits as your decisions in this area can be permanent and irreversible.

Matthew Trujillo, CFP®, is a Certified Financial Planner™ at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Matt currently assists Center planners and clients, and is a contributor to Money Centered.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Matthew Trujillo, CFP® and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

Links are being provided for information purposes only. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse, authorize or sponsor any of the listed websites or their respective sponsors. Raymond James is not responsible for the content of any website or the collection or use of information regarding any website's users and/or members.