Social Security Retirement Benefits
Social Security was originally intended to provide older Americans with continuing
income after retirement. Today, though the scope of Social Security has been widened
to include survivor, disability, and other benefits, retirement benefits are still
the cornerstone of the program.
How do you qualify for retirement benefits?
When you work and pay Social Security taxes (FICA on some pay stubs), you earn Social
Security credits. You can earn up to 4 credits each year. You generally need 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for retirement benefits.
How much will your retirement benefit be?
Your retirement benefit is based on your average earnings over your working career.
Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits, so if you have some years of
no earnings or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked
Your age at the time you start receiving benefits also affects your benefit
amount. Although you can retire early at age 62, the longer you wait to retire (up
to age 70), the higher your retirement benefit.
You can sign up for a my Social Security account at the Social Security website,socialsecurity.gov. so that you can view your online Social Security Statement. Your statement contains a detailed record of your actual lifetime earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. If you're not registered for an online account and are not yet receiving benefits, you'll receive a statement in the mail every year, starting at age 60.
Once you have an account, you can log in to use the Retirement Calculator to get an estimate of your benefits and see how various retirement age scenarios might affect those benefits.
If you don't have an account, you can estimate your retirement benefit online based on your actual earnings record
using the Retirement Estimator calculator on the Social Security website.
Retiring at full retirement age
Your full retirement age depends on the year in which you were born.
|If you were born in:||Your full retirement age is:|
66 and 2 months
66 and 4 months
66 and 6 months
66 and 8 months
66 and 10 months
|1960 and later||
If you were born on January 1 of any year, refer to the previous year to determine your full retirement age.
If you retire at full retirement age, you'll receive an unreduced retirement benefit.
Retiring early will reduce your benefit
You can begin receiving Social Security benefits before your full retirement age,
as early as age 62. However, if you retire early, your Social Security benefit will
be less than if you wait until your full retirement age to begin receiving benefits.
Your retirement benefit will be reduced by 5/9ths of 1 percent for every month between
your retirement date and your full retirement age, up to 36 months, then by 5/12ths
of 1 percent thereafter. For example, if your full retirement age is 67, you'll
receive about 30 percent less if you retire at age 62 than if you wait until age
67 to retire. This reduction is permanent — you won't be eligible for a benefit increase
once you reach full retirement age.
Still, receiving early Social Security retirement benefits makes sense for many
people. Even though you'll receive less per month than if you wait until full retirement
age to begin receiving benefits, you'll receive benefits several years earlier.
Delaying retirement will increase your benefit
For each month that you delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits past
your full retirement age, your benefit will increase by a certain percentage. This
percentage varies depending on your year of birth. For example, if you were born
in 1943 or later, your benefit will increase 8 percent for each year that you delay
receiving benefits. In addition, working past your full retirement age has another
benefit: It allows you to add years of earnings to your Social Security record.
As a result, you may receive a higher benefit when you do retire, especially if
your earnings are higher than in previous years.
Working may affect your retirement benefit
You can work and still receive Social Security retirement benefits, but the income
that you earn before you reach full retirement age may affect the amount of benefit
that you receive. Here's how:
- If you're under full retirement age: $1 in benefits will be deducted for every $2
in earnings you have above the annual limit
- In the year you reach full retirement age: $1 in benefits will be deducted for every
$3 you earn over the annual limit (a different limit applies here) until the month
you reach full retirement age
Once you reach full retirement age, you can work and earn as much income as you
want without reducing your Social Security retirement benefit.
Retirement benefits for qualified family members
Even if your spouse has never worked outside your home or in a job covered by Social
Security, he or she may be eligible for spousal benefits based on your Social Security
earnings record. Other members of your family may also be eligible. Retirement benefits
are generally paid to family members who relied on your income for financial support.
If you're receiving retirement benefits, the members of your family who may be eligible
for family benefits include:
Your spouse age 62 or older, if married at least one year
- Your former spouse age 62 or older, if you were married at least 10 years
- Your spouse or former spouse at any age, if caring for your child who is under age
16 or disabled
- Your children under age 18, if unmarried
- Your children under age 19, if full-time students (through grade 12) or disabled
- Your children older than 18, if severely disabled
Your eligible family members will receive a monthly benefit that is as much as 50
percent of your benefit. However, the amount that can be paid each month to a family
is limited. The total benefit that your family can receive based on your earnings
record is about 150 to 180 percent of your full retirement benefit amount. If the
total family benefit exceeds this limit, each family member's benefit will be reduced
proportionately. Your benefit won't be affected.
How do you sign up for Social Security?
You should apply for benefits at your local Social Security office or on-line two
or three months before your retirement date. However, the SSA suggests that you
contact your local office a year before you plan on applying for benefits to discuss
how retiring at a certain age can affect your finances. Fill out an application
on the SSA website, or call the SSA at (800) 772-1213 for more information on the