Sept. 23 marked the first day of fall. During this season, many people reflect on the gradual passing of time as green leaves turn gold and pine needles blanket lawns. You are also slowly changing, and those golden years of retirement are one season closer.

You’ll need to be as prepared as possible, and making applying for retirement easy is one of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) top priorities. In fact, applying for retirement benefits has never been easier. You can do it all online.

Unlike the leaves that take many weeks to change, you can complete Social Security’s online retirement application in as little as 15 minutes, from the comfort of your home or office. There’s no need to visit a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment. Simply go to

Most of the time, after your online application is submitted, you’re done. There are no forms to sign, and SSA usually requires no additional documentation. Social Security will process your application and contact you if further information is needed.

Planning for retirement is much like preparing for colder weather — you want to protect yourself and your loved ones as best you can with the best resources possible. One important but easy way to do this is to check your Social Security statement using your secure online My Social Security account.

Set up your account easily by answering a few questions to prove your identity. After you have an account, you can check your statement at any time, day or night. Your statement shows your lifetime earnings so you can make sure those records are correct. This way, you’ll know your retirement benefit will be accurate.

In addition, there are some useful things you can do with your personal My Social Security account, such as the following.

  • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you’re still working
  • Print a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them
  • Change your address
  • Start or change your direct deposit
  • Get a replacement Medicare card
  • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season

Beginning the season of retirement can be exciting and scary at the same time. Use the tools and information provided by SSA to help you make the best decision for you, and then apply for benefits online. Start that new season in your life today.

Eric Roper is the Social Security district manager in Columbia. He can be reached at 800-772-1213.