Social Security Matters – If I Apply Now, When Will I Get My First Social Security Payment?

By Rusty Gloor, National Social Security Advisor at the AMAC Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: If I were to apply for my Social Security retirement (I’m 68 on August 1, 2021), when could I realistically expect to receive my first check? Signed: Ready to Claim

Dear Ready: Social Security suggests applying for benefits 2 – 3 months before you wish them to begin, to allow time for processing your application. When you apply, you will specify the month you wish your benefits to start, and that is when your benefits will officially begin. But Social Security pays benefits in the month following the month they are earned. So, if, for example, you applied and specified September as your benefit start month, your benefit for that month wouldn’t be received until October. The payment date for you will be on the 2nd Wednesday (because you were born between the 1st and 10th of the month), and your payment won’t be by check but rather by direct deposit into your bank account. Here are a few other things you should be aware of:

  • Since you were born on the 1st of the month, your benefit is computed using the previous month as your eligibility date. If your year of birth was 1953, your full retirement age (FRA) was 66, which means that you actually reached your FRA in July 2019.
  • Since you reached your FRA of 66, you have been earning Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) at the rate of .67% per month (8% additional benefit per year). You can earn DRCs up to age 70, at which point your SS benefit would be 32% more than it would have been at your FRA.
  •  If you will be 68 on August 1st, you have already earned 16% additional benefit through DRCs. That means your benefit, if claimed to start in July will be 16% more than it would have been at age 66. You will specify the month you wish your benefit to start when you apply.
  • Social Security applies DRCs in January of each year, so if you apply mid-year 2021, your DRCs earned in 2021 won’t be applied to your benefit payment until January of 2022.
  • You can claim up to 6 months retroactive benefits, which would be paid in a lump sum. If you choose to take retroactive benefits your “benefit-start-month” will be backdated by 6 months, your benefit amount will be reduced accordingly (by 4%), and you’ll get that reduced benefit for the rest of your life (except for Cost of Living Adjustments annually awarded).

So, this may be more detail than you expected for your simple question, but claiming SS is a serious decision and it’s important you have complete information before you apply.

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or email us at ssadvisor@amacfoundation.org.

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