Q: If I want to apply for Social Security retirement benefits, how do I know when I first become eligible and when will I get my first check?
A: You may retire at any time between 62 and 70; however if you choose to retire before your full retirement age your benefit amount will be less than if you waited until your full retirement age. Your benefit will remain permanently reduced, based on the number of months you received benefits before you reached full retirement age.
Your first month of eligibility depends on your age at the time you file for benefits.
To receive early benefits, you must be age 62 for a full month. For Social Security purposes, you attain your date of birth the day before your actual birthday. Therefore, if you were born on the first or second day of the month, you will be considered 62 for the entire month in which you reach your 62nd birthday.
Let us look at a couple of examples of how the process works:
• If you were born July 1, 1946, your full retirement age is 66 and your first month of eligibility is June 2012. You would receive your first check in July 2012 for June because benefits are paid a month behind. In another example, if you were born July 15, 1946, your first month of eligibility would be July 2012 and you would receive your first check in August 2012.
• If your birthday was July 1, 1950: your first month of eligibility would be July 2012 and you would get your first check in August 2012. If your birthday was July 2, 1950, your first month of eligibility would also be July 2012. In both examples, you would be considered age 62 for the entire month.
However, if your birthday was July 3, 1950, or later your first eligibility month would be August 2012 and you would receive your first check in September 2012. In addition, if you filed anytime after age 62 and before full retirement age you would be eligible the month you file and would receive your first check the following month (because we pay a month behind).
Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at email@example.com.