“Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, so some people get an unpleasant surprise when they apply for benefits and find out they will not be getting that monthly check at all.”
If you are getting to the stage at which you are thinking about retiring, you must know how much money you will have. Although the Social Security Administration warns people to consider Social Security as only a supplement to the money they have saved on their own for their golden years, most people actually rely on Social Security, for most, if not all, of their income after they stop working.
Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Therefore, some people get an unpleasant surprise, when they apply for benefits and discover they will not be getting that monthly check. We do not want that to happen to you, so we will answer the question what are the requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits?
Eligibility for Social Security Retirement Benefits
There are two requirements for Social Security retirement benefits - age and work credits. You must satisfy both factors to get a Social Security check.
Age. You must wait until you reach a predetermined age, before the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you that monthly check. People born before 1943 can retire at age 65. People born between 1943 and 1954 can retire at age 66. Full retirement age creeps up two months for every year from 1955 to 1959. People born in 1960 and later can retire at age 67.
- What if you made a fortune early? Let’s say you started a company and amassed $10 million by the time you were 30. You paid your taxes, and now you want to retire. You can live off of the money you have earned, but your SSA check will not begin until you reach your retirement age.
- What about early retirement? If you meet all the other requirements for Social Security retirement benefits, the SSA will allow you to retire a few years early. However, it will cost you. Your check will be lower for the rest of your life, if you retire at your early retirement age, instead of your full retirement age. For example, if you retire at age 62, your check will be only about 70 percent of a full retirement age benefits check.
- Do you have to retire at your full retirement age? You may keep working, if you want or need to. The SSA will give you a bonus on every monthly check you get for the rest of your life, if you work past your full retirement age (FRA), up to a point. For example, if your FRA is 67, the SSA will increase your Social Security checks for every additional year you work, up to age 70.
- Do you automatically get a Social Security check when you hit your retirement age? You must also have enough work credits.
Work credits. You can only get Social Security retirement benefits, if you paid into the system long enough. You must work for at least ten years at a job that deducts Social Security taxes from your paycheck and sends the money to the SSA. For each quarter (three months) you worked and earned enough SSA-taxed income, you get one work credit. People born after 1928 must accumulate 40 work credits to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
This does not mean you should work only ten years. The SSA will calculate your check by using the average of your 35 highest-paying years. If you only work ten years, there will be 25 years with zero income, which will bring your average down to very little. Some people just get a few hundred dollars a month from Social Security, because they worked less than 35 years.
Planning for your retirement is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Talk with an elder law attorney in your area to get information on your state’s regulations, as the rules vary from one state to another.
Social Security Administration. “Retirement Benefits.” (accessed June 14, 2018) https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10035.pdf