NEW YORK (CNNfn) - When you bring home your first bundle of joy, the last thing on your mind is filling out paperwork for a Social Security number for your child. But if you plan to buy your toddler stocks or bonds, or plan to begin saving for the child's education, you'll need to establish a number now for the baby.|
Doing so isn't complicated. In fact, many hospitals provide the application at the maternity ward.
So financial planners suggest you put aside the diapers, the baby formula and rattles for a few moments to learn how to establish a Social Security number for your new child.
"Our lives keep getting more and more complicated," said certified financial planner (CFP) Philip Cook. "This is one thing you ought to do when you have a baby, especially your first baby because you don't know the routine yet. Just do it and get it done with right away."
A taxing issue
Of course, your child will need a Social Security number when he begins working on his own, probably in his teen years, to collect a paycheck and pay taxes.
But you should get a Social Security number now for your child to claim your baby as a dependent on your income tax return. Any child you claim as a dependent on your income tax return must have a number, regardless of age, according to the Social Security Administration.
Now let's talk about the future. Knowing how colleges costs are soaring these days, many parents begin saving for education at birth. Whether it's through stock purchases, savings bonds, mutual funds or an education IRA, you can begin saving long-term for your child. But you'll need to provide his or her Social Security number to establish the account.
For example, Cook recently advised a couple in their early 30s who just had their first child. They were considering different ways to save for the baby's education in 18 years or so and when Cook asked for the child's Social Security number, they were able to provide it promptly.
"For tax purposes, it's usually advantageous to put an account in the name of the child," Cook said.
Applying for a SSN
It's easy to apply at birth at the hospital when you're also applying for the baby's birth certificate. You'll be asked if you want to apply for a Social Security number for your baby at the same time.
You'll need to provide both parents' Social Security numbers then the Social Security Administration will assign your child a number and mail a card to you.
If you decide to wait until after you've left the hospital to apply, you'll need to visit your local Social Security Administration office and:
- fill out an application (you need to provide both parent's Social Security numbers)
- show evidence of your child's age, identity and citizenship
- show evidence of your identity.
Applying for your child's Social Security number is free. You should expect to receive your child's Social Security card in the mail in about two to three weeks if you apply at the hospital immediately after your baby's birth, according to Stephen Richardson, regional public affairs specialist for the New England region of the Social Security Administration.
Click here for more info on your Social Security number
In the numbers
You may be wondering how the Social Security Administration assigns each person a nine-digit number. Is it based on the year you were born? Or maybe the numbers are assigned alphabetically?
Actually, the first three digits of your Social Security number indicate the state where you lived when your parents an application for your number. For example, if your number begins with 050 to 134, you lived in New York State when you applied for your number. Massachusetts residents have numbers beginning with 010 to 034.
-- Staff Writer Jennifer Karchmer covers news about Social Security for CNNfn.com. Click here to send her e-mail.