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A Guide to Social Security for Seniors

A Guide to Social Security for Seniors

The following information was originally prepared by and is being shared with permission by Dorothy Scott, a community outreach advocate.

If you’re nearing retirement, you may be wondering how to get Social Security benefits. While you’ve likely been paying into the program for years through payroll taxes, it can be hard to understand how to get the benefits once you reach eligibility, or even to know when you become eligible.

Below, you’ll learn the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Social Security, including the next steps you can take to apply.

What Is Social Security?

Social Security is a federal benefits program that provides older adults and some people with disabilities with a monthly income. Working Americans pay into the program with payroll taxes, and then receive some of the money back in the form of Social Security benefits when they retire or can no longer work due to a disability.

Learn More About Social Security

How and When Can You Apply For Social Security?

You can apply for Social Security benefits by filling out the application on, the website of the Social Security Administration. You can also call the SSA’s helpline or visit the local office nearest to you. Once you’ve applied, you will typically wait 3-5 months for a decision.

Learn More About How to Apply for Social Security

How Can You Check Your Social Security Status?

You can check the status of your application at the same place you signed up, on under your “My Social Security” account. Alternatively, you can sign up and check your status over the phone by calling the SSA helpline during working hours any day from Monday to Friday. You could also visit your local SSA office to get in-person assistance.

Learn More About How to Check the Status of Your Social Security Application

What Age Can You Collect Social Security?

If you were born before 1960, you can apply for Social Security at age 65 or 66. If you were born after 1960, you can apply for benefits at age 67. Note that if you wait to apply for benefits after your full retirement age, your benefit may increase by as much as 8% per year up to the age of 70. After you reach 70, your benefits will no longer increase.

Learn More About When to Apply for Social Security

How Is Social Security Calculated?

Social Security benefits are calculated based on your average monthly earnings over the course of 35 years. The Social Security Administration calculates your payment amount using a formula applied to the average amount you earned over the course of 35 years.

Because Social Security is funded through payroll taxes, your benefit amount depends on how long you worked and how much you earned while you worked. Payments are based on your average income over the course of 35 years.

Learn More About How to Calculate Social Security Benefits

What Are the Different Types of Social Security Benefits?

Social Security pays five types of benefits: Retirement, Disability, Medicare, and Spouse/dependent children and Survivors’ benefits.

The benefits you’ll receive vary depending on factors like whether you worked for an employer or were self-employed, are disabled or have a disabled child, are married or widowed, and more.

Learn More About the Types of Social Security Benefits

When Will You Receive Social Security Checks Each Month?

If you live in another country, receive Supplement Security Income (SSI), receive state-sponsored Medicaid, or have been receiving benefits since before 1997, your check will come on the first of each month. If not, your check will come on the second, third, or fourth Wednesday of the month depending on the day of the month you were born.

Learn More About When You Will Receive Your Social Security Checks

Are Social Security Benefits Taxable?

If your taxable income is more than $25,000 per year, part of your Social Security income becomes taxable too. If your Social Security payments are your only income, that income will likely be tax-exempt. Additionally, your benefits cannot be taxed more than 85% no matter how much income you have.

Learn More About Paying Taxes on Social Security Income

How to Get A New Social Security Card

To replace a lost or stolen Social Security card, you can apply for a new one through the SSA. You can do this by filling out an online form, calling the helpline, or visiting the nearest SSA office in person to get it straightened out.

Learn More About Getting a New Social Security Card

Additional Social Security Resources

The below resources can help you access and get the most out of your Social Security benefits.

Social Security Administration
(800) 772-1213
You can call the SSA if you have questions about your benefits, payment schedule, or card. Your local office can also refer you to legal assistance and other community resources.

AARP Social Security Resources
(888) 687-2277
AARP can answer your questions about calculating your benefits. Members have access to free services that can help them manage their Social Security accounts.

Legal Services Corporation
(202) 295-1500
LSC is a government-sponsored nonprofit that offers legal aid programs from 130 locations around the U.S. They help qualifying seniors find legal assistance related to their government benefits.

SOAR Works
(518) 439-7415, Ext. 2
SOAR helps housing-insecure seniors access their SSI or SSDI benefits.

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