The holiday season is, for many people the busiest time of year with gift lists and to-do lists, feast planning and party preparation. The busy schedule, like the gift lists, often can get out of hand.

If youíre planning on retiring sometime early in the new year, we suggest you wrap up your retirement application now before wrapping any holiday gifts. Itís so easy and can take as little as 15 minutes. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

Our website makes the retirement application process quick, easy, and secure.† In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, youíre done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed.

Before you start your application, you may want to spend a few minutes to get an estimate of your retirement benefit at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Retirement Estimator uses your personal employment history to estimate your retirement benefit.

Then, jump right into the retirement application. You can use the online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouses benefits if you:

Are at least 61 years and 9 months old;

Want to start your benefits in the next four months; and

Live in the United States.

Before filing online for retirement, we suggest you have the following information on hand:

Your date and place of birth and Social Security number;

Your bank or financial institution's routing transit number and the account number, for direct deposit of your benefits;

The amount of money earned last year and this year. If you are filing for benefits in the months of September through December, you also will need to estimate next year's earnings;

The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;

The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968;

The name, Social Security number, and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You also should know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate); and

A copy of your Social Security Statement.

Even if you don't have all the information we need at your fingertips, you should go ahead and apply now.

Applying online means there is no need for you to go to a Social Security office or wait for a scheduled appointment with a Social Security representative. Besides, retiring online is so easy. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. That translates to more time for holiday shopping and activities.

So beat the holiday rush and wrap up your retirement application today at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.