If you need to visit a Social Security office, it's easy to find an office near you by entering your ZIP code into the Social Security office location web page.
However, before you make a trip to the Social Security office, you may want to check the online services page of the Social Security website. This page shows you the variety of Social Security services that the government provides online, and it may save you a trip.
If you do decide you need to make a visit to your nearest Social Security office, you'll find the text field for your ZIP code on the left side of the page, just below the heading that reads "Social Security Office Locator." Submitting your zip code will automatically bring up the nearest office's address, hours of operation, phone number, and any additional information about the building.
- Prepare for your trip to the Social Security office by gathering the required documents and learning key details like your benefits options and tax liabilities.
- Americans living abroad can visit the U.S. embassy if there isn't a Social Security office in the country.
- Financial planners can help ensure a smooth process and provide strategies for making the funds last through your retirement.
What to Expect at Your Nearest Social Security Office
Thousands of Americans turn 62 every day, which means many Social Security offices are going to have long wait times. If you're planning a trip to an office, be prepared to wait in line. Wait times at Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices have been on the rise since 2010, reaching as high as 25 minutes on average in 2017.
It's also important to know what kinds of answers you can get at a Social Security office. If you have questions about claiming choices, the nearest SSA office may not be the best place to find answers. Staff workers at most offices are not trained to give you advice on all your choices, and some may still be familiarizing themselves with new Social Security rules that took effect in 2019. These government workers are not financial advisors, and they don't have the training or expertise to help you see what financial decisions are best in the long run.
Before Visiting a Social Security Office
If you are going to file for retirement benefits in person, then take time before you go to the office to ensure that you are making decisions that will get you the most lifetime income possible. Many people make common mistakes when they claim benefits—mistakes that cost them thousands of dollars.
Know Your Benefit Options
For example, married couples often neglect to factor in the impact of survivor benefits, and they miss out on an opportunity to claim in a way that can provide more income for a surviving spouse. The result of these choices is that many widows or widowers have less income in their later years.
Your marital status will impact your claiming options. If you're single, before you claim, read up on when to claim Social Security for singles. If you're married, check out when to claim Social Security for married couples, or use one of the many online Social Security calculators. These software programs project your claiming choices over long timelines and show you which one will deliver the most income.
Know the Earnings Limit
If you are claiming benefits early and plan on continuing to work, understand the Social Security earnings limit. This rule can reduce your current benefits, depending on how your income stacks up against the current year's earnings limit. Many people file at age 62 and then keep working, expecting to get all of their Social Security and their earnings. However, if they earn too much, they'll receive a letter from Social Security explaining that their current benefits will be reduced. For those expecting their full Social Security income, this can be a shock.
The good news is, this rule no longer applies once you reach what is called your full retirement age. Your full retirement age is determined by the year you were born, but it will be age 66 or higher for most people. Once you reach your full retirement age, any benefits that were withheld earlier due to your income will be paid.
Be Prepared for Taxes
You'll also want to be familiar with how taxes on Social Security benefits work. Up to 85% of benefits received may be included as taxable income on your tax return. You need to plan for this, or you'll get an unexpectedly large tax bill in April.
Bring Your Documents
Once you're confident in your claiming choices, make sure you have the right documentation with you. Original documentation is usually required, so don't walk into the office with copies. For details on the documentation needed for each service, look up which documents you'll need. By being prepared, you'll save time and avoid the hassle of multiple trips to the office.
Social Security Office Locations Outside the U.S.
If you live outside the United States, there are still options for you to see Social Security officials in person. Social Security field office locations in Canada, the British Virgin Islands, and Samoa serve Americans living in those regions. In many other countries, Americans can instead visit embassies. For more information on Social Security's international operations, visit the Earnings & International Operations page on the Social Security website.
Social Security and Your Retirement
Overall, retirement planning is complicated and Social Security is only one piece of the puzzle. Your retirement funds need to last the rest of your life. Talking through these issues with a financial planner is often a smart move, especially as you prepare to claim Social Security.