Learn About the Requirements for Social Security Retirement Benefits

If you are interested in receiving Social Security Income benefits, the first step is to determine your eligibility. There are multiple different qualifications that must be met in order for you to be able to receive the benefits, and being aware of what those requirements are beforehand will make the entire process much smoother.

In addition, you may discover that you are not likely to be eligible for Social Security benefits due to your age or other qualifications, therefore saving time by knowing that you must wait to start the application process later.

Before you can completely understand whether you are eligible to receive Social Security income benefits, you must understand that there are multiple different types of Social Security. The different types of benefits vary depending on your situation. For example, there are benefits extended to retirees, surviving spouses or children of a deceased worker and to those who are disabled. To learn more about the eligibility requirements for each of the different Social Security benefits, read the sections below.

Learn About Social Security Requirements for Retirees

Large portions of the people who receive Social Security income are retired from their employment positions or are the dependents of a retired worker. This eligibility is earned through contributing a certain amount of money in income earnings to the Social Security system through taxes. For most, you earn one Social Security “credit” for each $1,320 in earnings each year (as of 2018), with a maximum of four credits able to be earned in any given year. To receive Social Security income, you must have at least 40 credits. For those individuals born in 1929 or later, this is approximately 10 years of work.

Having the correct amount of Social Security credits is only one component considered when you apply for benefits through the system, especially when applying for retirement benefits. The other important qualifying factor is whether or not you have retired at a certain age. You must be 62 years of age or older in order to receive retirement benefits through Social Security. This means that in order to receive the maximum amount of benefits, you must apply when you are at least 61 years and 9 months old.

You will not receive your full benefit amount until you reach your designated full retirement age. This age is not the same for everyone, as it ranges from 66 years to 67 years of age depending on your birth year. Although it is recommended that you wait to receive Social Security until you have reached your full retirement age, you may opt to retire later than your full retirement year, and in doing so, you will qualify to receive more benefits. This is because the benefit amount increases by a small percentage each month after you reach your full retirement age until you either claim benefits or reach 70 years old, whichever comes first.

Knowing your full retirement age is very important in order to ensure that you receive your full benefits. Use the chart below to determine what your full retirement age is.

Birth Year Full Retirement Age
1943-1954 66 years of age
1955 66 years and 2 months of age
1956 66 years and 4 months of age
1957 66 years and 6 months of age
1958 66 years and 8 months of age
1959 66 years and 10 months of age
1960 and later 67 years of age

How to Work and Receive Benefits

You can continue working and still be eligible to receive Social Security income benefits through retirement. The income you earn after you reach your full retirement age will not reduce the amount of Social Security benefits that you receive. Being employed and receiving wages after you have reached your full retirement age may increase the amount of benefits you earn at a later time.

However, in the time before you reach retirement, particularly in the months before you reach your full retirement age, you may have your benefit amount reduced if your earnings exceed a certain limit. If you are working but start receiving benefits before your full retirement age is reached, you will have one dollar reduced for every two dollars in earnings you have above the 2018 annual limit of $17,040. In the year that you reach your full retirement age, the deduction is changed to one dollar in benefits for every three dollars you earn above the limit of $45,360.

Learn About Social Security Requirements for Persons With Disabilities

If you are unable to work because of a mental or physical condition that is expected to last for at least one year, or that is expected to result in death, you may be considered eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. There are other qualifications that can be considered as well. To qualify, you must have previously worked in jobs that were covered by Social Security. In addition, you must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security’s definition of disability.

You are considered disabled under Social Security regulations if you:

  • Cannot perform work that you did previously.
  • Cannot adjust to other means of work because of your condition(s), as determined by the Social Security Administration.
  • Have a disability that is predicted to last for at least one year or may lead to your death.

You should also understand that no benefits will be paid if you have a partial disability or a short-term disability. You must also have earned a certain number of Social Security “credits” by contributing a to the Social Security taxes through your paychecks. In most cases, 40 credits must have been earned, although if you are a younger worker, you may qualify for Social Security with less than 40 credits, depending on the age you were when you became disabled.

Consult the following chart in order to understand how many credits you need for Social Security disability benefits:

Age You Became Disabled Number of Credits Needed
31 through 42 years of age 20
43 years of age 21
44 years of age 22
45 years of age 23
46 years of age 24
47 years of age 25
48 years of age 26
49 years of age 27
50 years of age 28
51 years of age 29
52 years of age 30
53 years of age 31
54 years of age 32
55 years of age 33
56 years of age 34
57 years of age 35
58 years of age 36
59 years of age 37
60 years of age 38
61 years of age 39
62 years of age or older 40

Learn About Social Security Requirements for Survivors

A survivor can be a dependent of a worker who is deceased. Those eligible for survivor benefits may be the child of deceased worker, a spouse or a parent. In most cases, that individual must have been dependent on the deceased worker. The child must be either younger than 18 years of age; disabled before the age of 22; or a high school student younger than 19. The spouse must be either 60 years of age or older; the parent of a child under the age of 16; or disabled and 50 years of age or older. A parent eligible for survivor benefits must have been dependent on the worker and must be at least 62 years of age. Any children of the deceased must not be married.

Also, there may be special circumstances that allow for other relatives to receive Social Security benefits. This varies greatly depending on each household situation, although in some cases stepchildren, divorced spouses, and grandchildren may be eligible to receive Social Security survivor benefits.

The credit requirement for benefits for survivors varies from the requirements for the other types of Social Security benefits. For example, while benefits for retirees require 40 credits (with each credit being earned for every $1,320 in wages or self-employment income earned) the surviving children or spouse of a deceased worker may be able to receive Social Security benefits with fewer credits. As long as the worker had earned at least six credits in the three years before he or she died, those dependents may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits as long as they meet the other requirements. Understanding Social Security and the types of benefits it can offer can help all potential beneficiaries get the assistance they need and earned.

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