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Most people don't think much about record keeping until they are required to submit certain documents to apply for a job or certain benefits. It is a good idea to keep your important documents in a secure place so that they are easily accessible when you need them. Having these items filed where you can find them will save time and the headache of having to contact agencies for duplicates. Applying for Social Security benefits is one occasion when you will be required to take documents to prove that you are eligible to receive benefits.

Make sure you take the appropriate documents with you

When you apply for Social Security Benefits, you will want to make sure you have your documents ready to take with you. This will save time and can prevent a delay in receiving benefits. You will need to provide your Social Security card or a record of your Social Security number. Take your birth certificate or proof of citizenship if you were born outside of the United be States. If you served in the military before 1968, you will need to provide your discharge papers. Finally, bring a copy of last year's W-2 form. If you were self-employed, bring last year's tax return. You must provide originals of each of these items or copies that have been certified by the agencies that issued them. The Social Security Administration will make copies of your documents and return the originals to you. If you are a widowed person, you may be asked to provide information about your spouse, since you may qualify for certain benefits for widowed persons.

Call before you go to the Social Security Administration

It is a good idea to contact the Social Security Administration for an appointment, and to determine if other information might be needed. Eligibility requirements and the list of necessary documents are subject to change. So be prepared and be patient.