Signing up for Social Security is a pretty big deal. After decades of working hard and paying into the program, you finally get to reap some of the rewards. But as with any financial transition, things can be a little confusing at first.
Your first Social Security check isn’t going to show up in your bank account the day you apply for benefits or even the day after. Here’s how to find out when you’ll get it.
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It depends in part on when you apply
You become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits once you turn 62, but you don’t have to sign up that early. Many choose to delay benefits because doing so increases the size of their monthly checks a little at a time until they reach their maximum benefit at 70.
It’s up to you to decide when you want to apply. Delaying could be the wiser move if you expect to live into your 80s or beyond and you have the financial means to cover your bills, because it might net you a larger lifetime benefit. But starting earlier is usually the safer move for those who need help paying their bills and those with shorter life expectancies.
Once you’ve decided when you want to start receiving benefits, you can figure out when you ought to sign up. You receive your first Social Security check in the month after the month for which it’s due. So, for example, you get your September benefit in October. But you can apply up to four months early, if you want. So you could apply today and request that your benefits start in January 2023.
A caveat for those applying at 62
Those applying as soon as they turn 62 may not be eligible for benefits in their birth month. In order to qualify for Social Security, you must be 62 for the entire month. But the government has a strange way of defining this.
If you were born on the first or second of a month, your birth month in the year you turn 62 is your first month of eligibility. But if you were born on any other day of the month, the following month is when you become eligible for benefits.
For example, if you were born Sept. 15, 1960, you wouldn’t be eligible for Social Security benefits until October 2022 because you’re only 62 for half of September, and you wouldn’t actually get your first check until November. The same rules apply for anyone with a birthday between the 3rd and 31st of a month.
When your first check will arrive
Once you’ve signed up and begun receiving benefits, you’ll get your checks on a specific day each month. It depends on what day of the month you were born. Here’s how to find out when you’ll get paid:
- Born between the 1st and 10th: Second Wednesday of every month.
- Born between the 11th and 20th: Third Wednesday of every month.
- Born between the 21st and 31st: Fourth Wednesday of every month.
If you also qualify for supplemental security income (SSI), the Social Security Administration pays these benefits on the first of every month, unless the first falls on a weekend, in which case it pays SSI benefits the Friday before.
Putting it all together
Assuming you know when you want to claim Social Security, you should be able to use the above information to figure out when you can apply and the exact date of your first check. Take the time to do this before you apply.
Have a plan for how you’ll pay your bills until your first check arrives, so you don’t wind up with late fees or interest charges. And if you have any questions about when your benefits will arrive, you can always ask the Social Security Administration when you apply.
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