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You can file for Social Security benefits up to three months before the time you want your benefits to start and be sure to specify when you want your benefits to start.  Below are the three ways you may file for your Social Security benefits:

1. By Phone - You can transact with Social Security on the phone regarding certain matters including filing for your retirement benefit. Be prepared for long hold times or you may choose to request a callback.

2. Online - You can also file via the ssa.gov website.  It is effective and hassle-free.

3. In Person - Make sure that you enter, in writing, in the Remarks section of the application form exactly what you want to do and also what you do not want to do.  Have the Social Security Office date your application and hand you a copy in case you need to appeal any mistakes that Social Security may make in handling your application.

You should know before you go in order to avoid any costly mistakes.