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Emma and Liam top 2017's baby names list

You're parents! Congratulations! Now that you've welcomed your new baby with a special name, be sure to get him or her a Social Security card before you leave the hospital. It will help in completing many of life's tasks, including filing taxes.

Baby names_most popular in 2017_SSA screenshot
Click image to watch the Social Security Administration's top baby names of 2017 video at YouTube.

How did your folks come up with your name? Were you named after a relative? A place? A friend? A favorite movie star? By a random dart that landed on a sheet of potential handles?

My grandmother named me. Well, she at least forced my parents' hands.

I have a cousin born just about four months before me. My aunt and uncle named her Kathryn. As my mom's due date neared, my maternal grandmother, a no-nonsense woman who taught first grade her whole life and lived to tell about it, informed my mother that if she delivered a girl, regardless of what name I was given, Mam-ma was going to call me Kay so that her first two granddaughters would be Kathy and Kay.

My mom and dad rolled with it, making Kay my middle name. And true to my grandmother's edict, I've always gone by my middle moniker.

My grandmother must have sensed something even before I made my appearance all those years ago. I've been very happy being Kay. Actually, I'm happy being Kay Bell, having kept my birth surname name even after marrying the wonderful hubby. But that's another story for another blog post.

Popular baby names, 2017 version: I got to thinking about my name today because the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued its annual list of the most popular baby names. For 2017, Emma topped the girls' names list for the fourth straight year. Liam was the favorite name for boys born last year.

Rounding out the top 10 names for daughters after Emma were Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Mia, Charlotte, Amelia, Evelyn and Abigail.

Following Liam on the sons' side were Noah, William, James, Logan, Benjamin, Mason, Elijah, Oliver and Jacob.

You can check where your family's names rank at the Social Security Administration's baby names page. Scroll down a bit and you'll find ways to view popular children's names by gender over the decades, by a particular year or just plug in a name — yours, your spouse's or your offsprings' — to see how popular (or not) those names are or were. 

You can even do the name version of Ancestry.com and see whether your forebears' names were popular. The SSA's name database goes all the way back to 1880. Mary and John were most popular between 1880-1889, but Emma was still third for girls. Sorry all you Liams; you didn't make the top 200 in that decade.

Kay not so OK: Of course I entered Kay. And I wasn't surprised to learn that, "Kay is not in the top 1,000 names for any year of birth beginning with 2000."

Why wasn't I shocked at the absence of Kay on the SSA list? Because I'm used to my name being overlooked.

Even here in Texas where there are a million Kays — I might be exaggerating a tad…or not; prominent Texas women who share my name include Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, makeup entrepreneur/executive Mary Kay Ash, candy maker Kay Klauber and beloved (according to its website) North Dallas eatery Kay's Restaurant & Bar — I can never find one of those dang name keychains. 

Kay nameplateAny time we take a road trip break at a truckstop, I search for one. There's always Kaylee (various spellings) and Kayla and all sorts of other Kay-ish names, but no basic, cut-to-the-chase Kay.

A few weeks ago, I finally found a trinket manufacturer that acknowledged all of us Texas Kays with a mini Lone Star State nameplate. (Note that my cousin's given name and our grandmother's more casual name preference for her are both available. Not that I'm taking this name thing personally!)

And of course, the Kay geegaws were sold out because all my sisters snapped them up before I got there!

That same no-Kay name trend showed up on the Social Security lists over the years.

Still, I'm looking at it as a positive. It makes me feel more special that I'm not sharing, at least in name lists and roadside retail outlets, my name with lots of other women.

Unique, and misused, numbers: One area where we're all unique is our Social Security numbers.

Getting one of these nine-digit personal identifiers for your newborn is voluntary. The Social Security Administration itself notes in its policy manual that:

"The Social Security Act does not require a person to have a Social Security number (SSN) to live and work in the United States, nor does it require an SSN simply for the purpose of having one."

I understand why some folks object to the numbers and their prolific (mis)use in all aspects of modern life, even though that's not why they were created. It seems like every day we hear another account of how these stolen numbers have allowed someone to easily commit complete identity theft.

Tax ID theft side note: The House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee will hear from experts on Thursday, May 17, on the dangers of using individuals' Social Security numbers as both an identifier and authenticator. The lawmakers also want to discuss policy considerations and possible ways to mitigate the consequences of SSN loss or theft.

However, the SSA also acknowledges that federal government itself has been in the forefront of expanding the use of the Social Security number. The demand for and use of the unique numerical identifier has made delivery of a variety of federal and state programs more efficient.

That includes claiming a dependent child on your annual tax return, as well as taking many of the child-related tax breaks in the Internal Revenue Code.

Getting a number for a newborn: That's why most parents apply for their children's Social Security numbers at the hospital when they are born.

According to the SSA pamphlet "Social Security Numbers for Children," when you give the information for your baby's birth certificate (including his or her name) to the hospital, simply tell the employee that you also want a Social Security number for your baby.

Once the request is received by the SSA, it will assign your baby a number and snail mail you the infant's Social Security card.

If you opt to wait until you get your bundle of joy home to apply for an SSN, it's a bit more complicated. You'll need to go to your local Social Security office t a Social Security office and there:

  • Complete an application for a Social Security card; and
  • Show original documents proving your child’s:
    • U.S. citizenship;
    • Age; and
    • Identity.

You'll also have to present documents proving your identity and your relationship to the child.

You can find more details on the process in the aforementioned (and linked above) Social Security Administration document, as well as at the agency's page dedicated to information on the benefit for kids and families.

I'm not a parent, but I've heard the tales of how a newborn shakes up your life. So it's probably a good idea to get young Emma's or Liam's Social Security number before you leave the hospital.

That way, you can just settle into your new routine and responsibilities at home with one less thing to worry about.

And you'll have your young dependent's Social Security number handy when tax filing time arrives and you get to start taking advantage of all those child-related tax breaks.

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