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's, 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. If you were born after 1928, you 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 steadily. 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 find out more about future Social Security benefits by signing up for a mySocial Security account at the Social Security website, www.ssa.gov, so that you can view your online Social Security Statement. Your statement
contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor's, and disability benefits. You can also use the Retirement Estimator calculator on the Social Security website, as well as
other benefit calculators that can help you estimate disability and survivor's
Retiring at full retirement age
Your full retirement age depends on the year in which you were born.
Tip: If you were born on January 1 of any year, refer to the previous year to
determine your fullretirement age.
If you retire at FRA, 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.
However, even though your monthly benefit will be less, you might receive the same or more total lifetime benefits as you would have had you waited until full retirement age to start collecting benefits. That’s because even though you’ll receive less per month, you might receive benefits over a longer period of time.
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, up until age 70. 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.
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