All posts by Social Security Guru

Questions about Social Security Card Number

To Apply for a Social Security Card Number:

Complete an ‘Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)

Bring original documents or certified documents proving your

  • US Citizenship or immigration status
  • Age
  • Identity

Bring to a Social Security office near you, or mail your completed application and documents.

*There is no charge for a Social Security card and number.

Different Types of Cards

There are 3 different types of cards that can be issued by the Social Security Administration.

  • The first, shows your name and social security number and is issued to US citizens and people lawfully permitting to live in the United States permanently.
  • The second shows your name and number with notes, “valid for work only with DHS authorization.” This is issued to people who are lawfully admitted to the United States on a temporary basis with DHS authorization to work.
  • The third card shows your name and number with the note, “not valid for employment.” It is issued to people from other countries:

-who are lawfully admitted to the United States without work authorization from the DHS, but with a valid reason for needing a social security number.

-who need a number due to a federal law requiring a Social Security number to get a benefit or service.

Social Security Card Questions

How can I protect my Social Security Number?

You should keep your Social Security Card in a safe place with other important information. Do not carry it around with you unnecessarily. Be selective about who you give your Social Security number. If your Social Security number is requested ask why it is needed; How it will be used; and What happens if you refuse. Based on the answers you can decide if you want to give your Social Security number out.

How to Contact Social Security

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov for more information and forms or call 1-800-772-1213 (deaf or hard of hearing can call 1-800-325-0778). All calls are confidential and specific questions are answered from 7am – 7pm Monday through Friday.

How do I make sure my records are accurate?

A tax and wage statement called a W-2 is sent to Social Security by your employer each year. Your name and Social Security number are compared between the information on the W-2 with the information from your files. The earnings on the W-2 are added to your Social Security record. You can review your Social Security Statement online.

How to do a Name Change

If you need to change your name with the Social Security Administration due to divorce, marriage, or any other reason, you must contact the SSA as soon as possible to prevent mix up with your tax information and social security benefits later in life.

Required Name Change Documents

Depending on the circumstances behind your name change, the SSA will require one or more of the following documents:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Court order for a name change
  • Certificate of Naturalization displaying your new name

*Be sure to have a photo ID such as a passport or drivers license available upon request.

Social Security Card Name

Additional Documents for Adoption or Naturalization

In addition to a court order or Certificate of Naturalization, provide:

  • One proof of identification with your former name. The SSA will accept an expired document.
  • One proof of identification with your new name. This document MUST be valid.

Additional Documents for Citizenship

If you are a U.S. citizen born outside of the country and the SSA does not have you listed as a U.S. citizen, you will need to provide proof of your citizenship. Check with the SSA for acceptable documents.

If you do not have U.S. citizen status, be prepared to provide your current immigration documents.

*You will recieve a new Social Security card with your new name however, your Social Security number will remain unchanged

Changing Your Name with the SSA

Step 1: Obtain an “Application for a Social Security Card” form at your nearest Social Security office. You can also download the form from the Social Security website.

Step 2: Gather necessary documentation that must accompany the form. (see above)

Step 3: Complete the “Application for a Social Security Card” completely and legibly.

Step 4: Mail the form (using certified mail) and supporting documents to address listed on the Social Security Administration website. Expect to receive your new Social Security card in 7 to 14 days. If you don’t feel like mailing these important documents, you can visit your nearest SSA center.

When am I eligible for Social Security Benefits

How to become eligible for Social Security benefits

To qualify for retirement benefits you must have paid into Social Security tax while you were working and earned “credits” toward benefits. The number of credits you need to be eligible for social security benefits depends on the year that you are born.  If your birth year is 1929 or later, you must have 40 credits, the equivalent of 10 years of work. Social security benefits can not be paid until the required amount of credits is obtained.

Determining how much Social Security you will receive

When to apply to social security

The Social Security payment that you will receive is based on the amount you earned during your working career. The more money you earned the higher your benefit. Other factors such as the age at which you start pulling from your Social Security also affect the payment amount.

Create a mySocialSecurity account to look at your Social Security statement.

When you are eligible for Social Security Benefits 

The full retirement age varies (see figure below). If you have a retirement age of 66 then you would be able to start drawing on your social security with a 25% penalty at age 62. In addition, if you choose to delay collecting each year, up to age 70, your benefits are increased by 8%.

If you were born in … Your full retirement age is …
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67

Factors to consider

When deciding if you want to take money from your Social Security, there are many factors to consider. Taking money out too soon could mean settling for lower monthly payments.

Eligible for social security benefits
Photo credit: forthepeople.com

1. Your instant cash needs. If you are financially sound without the help of social security then it is better to leave your social security and gain 8% interest per year until you have to start taking it. If you are just making ends meet with the help of a social security check, postponing retirement till you meet your full requirement age, is a better option.

2. Your life expectancy and break even age.  If you take your social security before your full time retirement age, you will be receiving a lower payment each month for a longer period of time. The alternative is taking social security later and receiving fewer larger checks.

Calculate your break even age to plan when the best time to apply for your benefits in order to optimize your benefits.

Monthly Social Security benefits Retirement age Break-even age
$1,992 62 vs. 66 Between 77 and 78
$2,676 62 vs. 70 Between 80 and 81
$3,557 66 vs. 70 Between 83 and 84