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How to apply for Social Security benefits

Here are a few important items about Social Security retirement benefits and how to apply for them.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits toward Social Security benefits. If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for retirement benefits.

We determine the amount of your benefit by both how long you work and how much you earn. If there were some years you did not work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had earned more.

Your age at the time you start receiving Social Security retirement makes a difference in your benefit amount. The full retirement age (the age at which 100 percent of retirement benefits are payable) has been gradually rising from age 65 to age 67.

You can take "early retirement" as early as age 62, but if you start collecting benefits before you reach full retirement age, your monthly payment will be reduced.

You can find out what your full retirement age is by referring to the convenient chart at

Just as you can choose an early retirement and get a reduced payment, you also can choose to keep working beyond your full retirement age to take advantage of a larger payment.

Generally, your benefit will increase automatically by 8 percent each year from the time you reach full retirement age until you start receiving your benefits or until you reach age 70.

The decision of when to retire is personal and depends on a number of factors. We suggest you read our online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available at

Use our Retirement Estimator to get instant, personalized estimates of future benefits. You can plug in different retirement ages and scenarios to help you make a more informed decision (

You also can set up an online my Social Security account to obtain a copy of your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see future estimates of the retirement, disability, and survivor benefits you and your family may receive at

When you decide to retire, the most convenient way to apply for retirement benefits is online at In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to send.

Be sure to have your bank account information handy so you can receive payments electronically. Electronic payment of federal benefits is now mandatory, with few exceptions. Learn more by reading Retirement Benefits, at