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2020 Social Security Payments Schedule: When Will You Get Paid?

Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool

Tens of millions of Americans count on getting their Social Security checks in a timely manner each month. Even with the recent government shutdown, Social Security recipients kept getting paid. Because many retirees get almost all of their income from the benefit checks, it's essential to know exactly when they'll come in.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) tends to give the public a lot of advance time to plan for when Social Security checks will go out. It wasn't quite as timely this year as it was when the SSA released the 2019 Social Security payment schedule before the end of 2017, but you'll still have almost a year to prepare. Below, we'll look at when you can expect to get your Social Security during 2020.

Two Social Security cards sitting on top of a $100 bill.
Two Social Security cards sitting on top of a $100 bill.

Image source: Getty Images.

How to figure out when Social Security will pay you

The federal government likes to spread things out rather than paying everyone their benefits all at the same time. As a result, the SSA uses your birthdate to decide when you'll receive your monthly Social Security payments. Here's a summary of how the rules work:

  • If your birthday is in the first 10 days of the month -- regardless of what month of the year it is -- then you'll receive your Social Security benefits on the second Wednesday of each month.

  • Those with birthdays between the 11th and the 20th get their monthly payments on the third Wednesday of the month.

  • Payments are made on the fourth Wednesday of the month for those with birthdays on the 21st or later.

The following calendar from the SSA puts those rules into an easy-to-understand format:

Calendar showing Social Security benefit payment dates in 2020.
Calendar showing Social Security benefit payment dates in 2020.

Image source: SSA.

Because of the way the calendar works out in 2020, there won't be many deviations from the schedule above. The only complication is that Veteran's Day falls on the second Wednesday of November, so those who would ordinarily get a Social Security payment that day will instead get paid a day early, on Tuesday.

Special dates for certain participants

The rules above cover most of those who receive Social Security. However, if you started getting benefits before May 1997, then a special schedule applies to you. It's much simpler: Your benefits come on the third day of each month, as long as that day is a weekday. During those months when the third falls on a weekend, the payment will get made on the preceding Friday, amounting to one or two days earlier than it would otherwise come.

The third day of the month is also the payment date for anyone who receives both regular Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. However, for those who receive only SSI, the typical payment date is the first day of the month. Again, those payments can get made a day or two earlier when the first falls on a weekend or holiday.

When to expect your payments

In the past, Social Security recipients had to deal with the hassle of having checks mailed to them, with resulting delays. Now, the vast majority of people get their benefits electronically. For those who have bank accounts, direct deposit is a simple solution, and the government also makes available a special program called Direct Express that gives Social Security recipients the ability to get a prepaid debit card that automatically loads with their monthly payments.

Even if you're still getting mailed payments, the delays shouldn't be long. The SSA suggests allowing just three extra mailing days before contacting the agency if your check doesn't arrive on time.

Get ready for 2020

It's a bit early to be thinking about 2020, with 2019 just having started. But for retirees for whom Social Security is important, knowing when monthly payments will come is something worth looking forward to throughout the year.

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