My birthday is on the first of the month; when should I claim Social Security?

Dear Rusty: I will be 62 on Nov. 1, and I have chosen to take my benefits early. I know that my benefit will be less than it would be if I waited and that does not concern me, but I don’t want to be without income for a long period of time. I know that if my birthday is on the first or second of the month, then I can draw that month. Does that mean that when I turn 62 on Nov. 1, that I can receive my first check on the second Wednesday of November? And should I select November as the month I’d like my benefits to start? I also read that I would be paid the month following the month I select, hence my confusion. Signed: Confused Senior

Dear Confused: There are a few different Social Security rules which come into play in your specific circumstance which are likely creating your confusion. First, since you will be 62 on Nov. 1, you will first become eligible for Social Security starting with the month of November. Those born on the first or second of the month are eligible for benefits for that entire month, whereas those who turn 62 later in the month wouldn’t be eligible for benefits until the following month.

To claim benefits, you must be 62 for the entire month and, because your birthday is on the first, your first month being 62 for the entire month will be November, and that is the month you should specify as your benefit-start month on your application.

The next thing to be aware of is that Social Security pays benefits in the month following the month those benefits are earned. That means that your November benefits will be paid in December. The exact payment date is determined by the recipient’s birthday – born before the 11th of the month, SS payments are made on the second Wednesday; born between the 11th  and 20th of the month, payments are received on the third Wednesday of the month; and for those born after the 20th of the month, payment is received on the fourth Wednesday.

Thus, since you were born on the first of the month and are claiming benefits to start in November, your first Social Security payment will be deposited in your bank account on the second Wednesday of December, and all subsequent Social Security payments will be made on that same second-Wednesday schedule.

You can apply for your Social Security benefits up to four months prior to the month you wish them to start, and SS recommends you apply at least two months prior to allow time for processing your application. On the application, they will ask which month you wish your benefits to begin, and you can indicate November to get your earliest possible payment in December. Actually, you can simply select the following option on the Social Security benefit application: “I want benefits beginning with the earliest possible month and will accept an age-related reduction,” which will accomplish the same thing.