man filling out form for social security benefitsIt’s never too early to work with an experienced retirement planner so you can maximize your financial security. Many people count on Social Security benefits as one part of their economic stability when they’re done working, but do you know the details of the process? The first step toward understanding Social Security in New Jersey is to contact a professional at Leonard Financial Solutions. Our team can help you design a retirement strategy that allows you to plan for the future on your terms. Here are some tips to get started.

When Can I Apply for Social Security in the United States?

If you were born before 1954, the Social Security full retirement age to receive 100 percent of benefits is 66. If you were born after that year, the age is 67. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a formula to compute payments based on your 35 top-earning years with an average benefit amount.

Now, you can apply for Social Security as early as 61 years and 9 months, as this allows processing to begin four months prior to when benefits start. This way, you'll receive your first payment the month after turning 62. However, claiming Social Security at 62 means a 30 percent reduction in monthly benefits. So although it’s tempting to claim them before full retirement age, it might not yield the best outcome. 

Here’s another point: delaying claims until age 70 results in an 8 percent increase per year. Whether this is the best course of action depends on your health status, longevity, and retirement goals. Consulting a knowledgeable financial advisor is a great way to know if it's the right time for you to claim your Social Security benefits. 

What Do I Need to Apply for Social Security Benefits?

When applying for Social Security in the United States, you can submit an application online, over the phone, or in person at your local office. To get started, you'll need the following documents:

  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • Banking information
  • Military papers (if applicable)
  • W-2 forms or self-employment tax return
  • Marriage/divorce/death certificates (where applicable)

The application process takes around 15 minutes, and if approved, benefit checks start to arrive within a few months. 

How Our Experienced Retirement Planner Can Help You 

If you need help claiming Social Security benefits, Leonard Financial Solutions is available to assist. We provide you with the knowledge to assess your overall retirement goals and how these benefits fit into your financial strategy. Here are just a few details we consider:

  • Maximize your Social Security benefits. The SSA doesn’t provide a lot of advice when it comes to maximizing your benefits: it simply instructs you on how to fill out your application. This means that you could be missing out on money. Whether you’re married or single, filing for survivor benefits, need disability assistance, or something else, we’ll explain the options so you understand what works best for you. 
  • Ensure you’re making the best choices. Based on the other components of your retirement plan, there may be certain advantages and disadvantages as to when you claim benefits. Your financial planner outlines the facts to determine all aspects, from diversifying other investments to tax implications.  

Social Security is just one part of a progressive retirement approach for lasting security. Before applying, rely on the expertise of a certified financial planner to help you make the best decisions.