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Social Security is one of the main benefit programs for workers in the United States. At some point, almost everyone will collect something from Social Security. If you are getting close to collecting from Social Security, you might be wondering how the program works and what to expect. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about Social Security benefits.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Collect?

The short answer is that it depends on when you were born. Also, you can decide if you want to start collecting benefits earlier and take a smaller amount, or if you want to wait for a higher amount.

The soonest you can start receiving benefits is at age 62. If you do that, your monthly payment will be smaller. You can delay the payment each year and it will keep increasing until you’re 70 years old. So it’s really up to you how you want to handle it. The “full retirement age” is considered 65 for those born before 1938. If you were born after that, there’s a sliding scale up to 66 years and 4 months to reach retirement age.

How Much Can I Get?

The amount you get from Social Security varies depending on when you retire and when you were born. How much you earned over your career also plays into the calculation. To give you an idea, the average benefit for someone on Social Security as of January 2019 was $1464 per month. On the high end of the spectrum, you could earn as much as $2861 per month if you waited as long as possible to retire and were in the highest bracket. Your spouse can also receive a benefit of roughly half of your benefit. If you pass away, your spouse can also keep receiving spousal benefits from Social Security.

When Do I Get My Social Security Check?

The short answer is, you won’t actually get a check. Social Security doesn’t mail physical checks, but you can sign up for direct deposit. In that case you’ll get an automatic deposit into your account. Another option is to receive a prepaid debit card with your benefits on it. If you do automatic deposit like most people, the day that the deposit arrives varies depending on when your birthday is.

If your birthday is in the first 10 days of the month, your payment will arrive on the second Wednesday of the month. If your birthday falls in the range of the 11th through the 20th of the month, then you’ll get your payment on the third Wednesday of the month. If your birthday is after the 20th, you’ll get the payment on the fourth Wednesday.

How Do I Apply for Social Security benefits?

The easiest way to apply for Social Security benefits is online at SSA.gov. Another option is to go to the local Social Security office and apply in person. You can start this process when you’re 61 years and 9 months old. You can receive your first benefits when you turn 62 if you wish to start as early as possible.

Remember, Social Security benefits should only account for a portion of your retirement income.  A retirement plan with other sources of income is ideal and we are here to help you plan for the retirement road ahead.