When we’re young and just starting to look for work, the prospect of claiming Social Security benefits seems a long way off. But someday it will come time to collect, and you’ll want all earnings on the record. Also, your life can’t move forward properly unless you have your Social Security number.

Your Employment Record Must Be Complete

Employment Record
You need to ensure that you have an SSN from when you get your first “real” job. That way, the Social Security Administration will have a complete record of all your earnings. It may not seem important now, but it becomes so when you need to claim. The more money you earn in life, the more your Social Security benefits will be.

Most companies won’t even consider employing you full time if you don’t have your Social Security number, so get this sorted out ASAP. Plus, it is illegal not to report your earnings to the IRS.

Even if you don’t earn enough to pay tax, getting an SSN is essential.

You’ll Need it When Applying for Credit

Applying for Credit
Want to get that car loan? Or that in-store card?Or any other kind of legitimate credit? Then you’ll need an SSN as well. So it’s time to get yourself into gear and file that Social Security card application. It’s the grown-up thing to do.

I’m Sold, How Do I Apply?

That’s the fun part. You can start by downloading the forms. Then you’ll need to go into the nearest office or mail the applications. You cannot apply for the card online if it’s the first one you’re getting.

If you’re not sure about how to fill in the form, or you’re not sure what documents to take with you, you can use an application filing service. They do charge a fee, but it is usually worthwhile paying it because all you need to do is answer some questions.

Based on your answers, they’ll populate the form for you, and then tell you exactly what documents will be acceptable.

You’ll need at least two forms of government issued ID. You need to provide:

  • Proof of your identity. Your passport or a government-issued ID card will work here. If you don’t have these, they will ask for your birth certificate or driver’s license.
  • Confirmation that you’re a U.S. citizen. Proof can be in the form of a passport, birth certificate, or naturalization certificate.
  • And a document giving proof of your current address. You can use your driver’s license for this, as long as you have another form of ID as well.

The rules here are relatively simple – you have to provide the originals because the SSA will accept no copies unless they are official, to combat fraud.

You also have to make sure you provide two forms of ID. While your driver’s license is technically both proof of identity and proof of address, you won’t be able to send it in by itself. You’ll have to back it up by providing proof of citizenship.

The process is cumbersome, but enjoy this lesson in red tape. Your SSN is extremely important, so it’s worth the effort.