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If I claim Social Security benefits at full retirement age, when will I get my first payment?

En españolIf you set benefits to begin at full retirement age (FRA), which now is 66 and gradually will rise to 67 over the next several years, your first payment generally will arrive in the month after you attain that age. That’s because Social Security pays benefits a month behind, so your benefit for, say, December 2020 will arrive in January 2021.

Your birthday generally determines your monthly payment schedule:

  • If the birthday is between the first and the 10th day of the month, the benefit payment is deposited on the second Wednesday of each month.
  • If the birthday is between the 11th and the 20th, the payment comes on the third Wednesday of the month.
  • If the birthday is between the 21st and the end of the month, the payment arrives on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

So, if you reach full retirement age on Nov. 15 and start benefits then, you’ll get your first Social Security payment on the third Wednesday of December.

There's an exception if you were born on the first day of the month. In this case, Social Security considers you to have attained full retirement age on the last day of the previous month. For example, if you were born Dec. 1, 1954, you attain full retirement age on Nov. 30, 2020, and you would receive your first payment in December 2020.

Keep in mind

  • Benefit applications can take up to three months to process, so apply three months before your planned start date.
  • If you are drawing spousal or survivor benefits on another person’s earnings record, your payment date depends on that person’s birthday, according to the schedule above.

Updated October 1, 2020

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