Get Social Security

Overview

The Social Security Act, signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, created Social Security, a federal safety net for elderly, unemployed and disadvantaged Americans. The main stipulation of the original Social Security Act was to pay financial benefits to retirees over age 65 based on lifetime payroll tax contributions. Today Social Security is providing a range of financial benefits to 69 million people every month. Whether you have decided to take Social Security, or are considering it, the information on these pages will help give you clarity and direction.

Am I right for this?

Social security benefits are available to anyone over the age of 62 who qualifies, with increasing benefit amounts at various ages above that, depending on when you decide to receive your benefits. When and how to apply for Social Security benefits can be complicated.

Visit www.ssa.gov for detailed information.

What Social security benefits can cover:

  • Retirement
  • Disability
  • Medicare
  • Survivors
  • Supplemental SecurityIncome (SSI)

Percent of people claiming Social Security at various ages.

While you can sign up for Social Security at any time after age 62, monthly payments will be larger for each month you delay claiming them up until age 70.

  • Age 62 (the earliest eligible age): About 32% of all eligible recipients
  • Age 63: About 7%
  • Age 64: Between 7% and 8%
  • Age 65: About 12%
  • Age 66: About 22 % of women and 29% of men
  • Age 67: Fewer than 4 percent of men and 3 percent of women
  • Age 68: 2% of all eligible
  • Age 70: Waiting until age 70 offers the biggest reward. 9% of women and 6% of men wait to age 70. After age 70, there is no increase in benefits regardless of when you file.

Average Annual Retirement Benefit: $18,170

Who is eligible for Social Security

  • People who have already retired
  • People who are disabled
  • Survivors of workers who have died
  • Dependents of beneficiaries
  • Persons working who have filed to receive early (and reduced) Social Security benefits

Fun facts about Social Security

  • Social Security numbers were introduced to keep track of itinerant workers.
  • What your Social Security number means:
  • First three numbers identify the office who issued the number
  • Next two are your ‘group number’ for the area where you first applied
  • The final four numbers are your ‘serial number’
  • 001-01-0001 is the card with the lowest number ever issued.
  • You can change ‘bad luck’ SS numbers for religious reasons.
  • Your SS number dies with you, never to be used again.

Q&A

Here are questions and answers that address common issues and concerns related to Social Security.

Question

How are Social Security retirement benefits determined?

Answer

Social Security replaces a part of your pre-retirement income based on lifetime earnings. Your Social Security benefits are based on your highest 35 years of earnings, and vary depending on how much you earned, and when you choose to start benefits. The calculation varies depending on a wide variety of factors. We advise you to discuss your options with your accountant or financial advisor.

Question

Who does not qualify for Social Security?

Answer
  • People who have never worked or whose earnings fall below the Social Security ‘credits’ (a measure of earnings) limit. Talk to your Social Security office about if you qualify. The rule of thumb is fewer than ten years of work may disqualify you.
  • Certain divorced spouses – For example when the marriage lasts under 10 years.
  • US citizens who retire in certain countries such as Cuba and North Korea.
  • Certain non-citizen workers who do not meet minimum earnings thresholds.
  • Certain government and railroad employees who have not paid Social Security taxes.
  • Self-employed tax evaders with no record of paying into the Social Security system.
  • Immigrants over the age of 65 whose US earnings do not meet a minimum threshold.
Question

How do I know if I am eligible for Social Security?

Answer

There are requirements for the amount of paid income you have received to be eligible to receive Social Security. Checking your Social Security earnings history at ssa.gov will give you a clear picture of what to expect.

Question

When should I start taking my Social Security retirement benefits?

Answer

If you choose to retire and to begin receiving benefits when you reach your full retirement age you’ll receive your full benefit amount.

Social Security will reduce your benefit amount if you decide to start benefits before reaching full retirement age.

If you were born from 1943 to 1954, full retirement age is 66. The full retirement age increases gradually if you were born between 1955 to 1960.  And for those born in 1960 or later, full retirement benefits begin at age 67.

You may have the option to delay your benefits until after your full retirement age and the amount of your benefit will increase until the age of 70. Benefits are capped after the age of 70.

Question

Can my pension, or my spouse’s pension, affect my Social Security benefits.

Answer

Such pensions may influence your Social Security benefits. Check with your Social Security office for more details relevant to your particular circumstance.

Question

What might change my Social Security benefit payments?

Answer

It's not unusual for a benefit recipient's circumstances to change after they apply or became eligible for benefits. For example, if your spouse or ex-spouse dies, you may become eligible for a higher benefit. You can use the Social Security Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) to find out if you could get additional Social Security benefits.

Question

How I qualify for the maximum Social Security benefit?

Answer

Qualifying for the absolute maximum benefit allowed in any year, including 2021, is very difficult. That maximum benefit for 2021 is $3,895 per month. To qualify you would have to earn the maximum earnings allowable by Social Security during every year of the 35 years earnings that can be included in your Social Security benefits calculation. And you must delay starting to receive your Social Security benefits until you reach the age 70.

Additional resources

Additional related sites:

Next steps:

Step 1

Consult with your accountant or financial advisor as to your eligibility for social security benefits and their implication for your overall financial plan.

Step 2

Spend some time on ssa.gov to get familiar with the details and to open an online social security account.

Step 3

Request a statement of benefits from the Social Security administration (ssa.gov) to learn what your benefits will be.

Step 4

Determine at what age you want to apply for Social Security based on your financial requirements – benefits increase as you begin taking them at older ages.

Step 5

Talk to friends or relatives who are on Social Security to learn from their experience about how to apply and when to begin taking it.

Step 6

Contact your local Social Security office at 800-772-1213 for further assistance.

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