Social Security Retirement ( SSR ) benefits depend on your work history in the US The Social Security Administration ( SSA ) is in charge of SSRs. You receive SSR “credits” when you pay Social Security taxes. The amount of money you have to earn to receive credits goes up a little each year. In 2022, you receive a credit for every $1,510 you earn. You can receive up to four credits per year.
The credits you earn stay on your Social Security record. So even if you change jobs, move to another state, or don’t earn any money for a while, you’ll still have the credits you previously earned. You have to have a certain number of credits before SSA starts paying your retirement benefits.
What types of work earn credits?
The majority of workers in the US (96%) are covered by Social Security. However, some types of work either don’t earn credits or have special rules for earning credits.
Jobs with special rules to earn credits
Some jobs have special rules for earning credits. Some examples of these works are:
- I work on my own accord
- I work in the armed forces
- Domestic work
- Agricultural work
- I work for a church
If you don’t know if you earned credits for a job you had or if there were special rules for earning credits, contact SSA.
When can I retire?
The age you can start receiving full SSR benefits depends on the year you were born. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, you can receive full benefits at age 66. If you were born in 1955 or later, the age at which you can receive full benefits gradually increases from 66 to 67. For example, depending on your year of birth, the full retirement age could be 66 years and six months. To find out how old you have to be to collect your full retirement benefits, you can use SSA’s Full Retirement Age Calculator.
You may be able to retire early with reduced benefits, or you may decide to delay retirement and increase your benefits. If you’re deciding when to retire, contact SSA to learn about your options. Sometimes the month you decide to retire can affect the amount of benefit you receive. SSA employees can help you make informed decisions about your retirement.
To retire comfortably, financial experts say you’ll need 70-80% of what you earned before you retired. SSR only replaces about 40% of pre-retirement income for an average worker retiring at full retirement age. The SSA has a calculator you can use to get an idea of the benefits you could receive based on your earnings record. This is an important factor to consider when deciding when to retire.
If you want to retire before you reach full retirement age, you may be able to, but SSA will reduce your benefit amount. The earliest you can retire is at age 62, regardless of when you were born. The earlier you retire, the more your benefits will be reduced. For example, if you turn 62 in 2022 and retire this year, your benefits will be about 29% less than what you would receive if you had waited until full retirement age.
People sometimes have to stop working because of health problems. If you have a work history but are no longer able to work due to a health problem, you can apply for the Social Security Disability Insurance ( SSDI ) program. If your SSDI application is approved, the number of disability benefits you will receive will be the same as your full retirement benefits. Once you reach full retirement age, SSA will convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits. To learn more about SSDI, read
The postponed retirement
If you choose not to retire when you reach full retirement age, you will increase your benefits in two ways. First, you will increase your total lifetime earnings for each year you work after reaching full retirement age. Second, your benefit amount will increase by a certain percentage for each year you work after you reach full retirement age until you reach age 70. The percentage increase in profits varies but is likely to be no more than 10%.
How to apply for SSR
Apply for benefits about three months before you want to start receiving them. You can apply for retirement benefits online, or by calling toll-free 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also go to your local Social Security office to apply in person. If you decide to apply in person, it’s a good idea to call ahead to make an appointment so you won’t have to wait as long.
What documents will you need to submit
Before you apply, you will need to gather a lot of information. Some of the most important things you will need to have are:
- A Social Security card or a record of your Social Security number
- A birth certificate or proof of age
- Your tax return from last year
- Your military discharge certificate, if you were in the Armed Forces
- Your spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security number, if he/she is applying for benefits
- Your children’s birth certificates and Social Security numbers, if you are applying for child benefits
- Proof of US citizenship or lawful immigration status if you (or a spouse or child applying for benefits) was not born in the United States
- Your bank or credit union name, routing number, and account number, so benefits can be deposited directly into the account
You must present original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. You can mail them or take them to an SSA office, where an employee will make copies and return the documents to you.
If you don’t have an account at a financial institution or prefer to receive your benefits on a prepaid debit card, you can get a Direct Express ® card. In general, you cannot receive a paper check.
Don’t delay applying for benefits simply because you don’t have all the information you need. If you don’t have a document, the SSA can help you get one. Read more about this in the “Getting Your Benefits” section below.
How to receive the top of your benefits
Once your benefits are approved, SSA will send you a letter telling you when you will start receiving payments and how much you will receive each month. SSR payments are made the month after they are due. For example, if you tell SSA that you want your benefits to start in May, you will receive your first payment in June.
The date you receive your monthly payment is generally determined by your date of birth. If you were born between the 1st and 10th of the month, you will receive your benefits on the second Wednesday of the month. If you were born between the 11th and 20th of the month, you will receive your benefits on the third Wednesday of the month. If you were born after the 20th, you will receive your benefits on the fourth Wednesday of the month.
You will receive your benefits either by direct deposit into your bank account or your Direct Express ® Debit MasterCard ® account. For more information on this topic, read Receive Your Payments Electronically on the SSA Website.
How to appeal a decision about your benefits
You can appeal most decisions SSA makes about your benefits, such as initial benefit denials and changes to your existing benefits. When you appeal a decision, SSA reviews all of the information sent to you and all parts of your case.
For more information about the appeal process, read The Appeal Process for Social Security Programs.
Taxes on profits
Some people have to pay taxes on their retirement benefits when they have significant other income. Other income can be waged from a job (including self-employment), interest, dividends, and other sources of income. Depending on the amount of income you have, you may have to pay taxes on up to 85% of the benefits. For more information on this topic, read Income Taxes and Social Security Benefits on the SSA website.
When someone who earned credits for working dies, certain members of their family are eligible to receive survivor benefits. Depending on how old a person was when they died, their work history may be as short as a year and a half to qualify for benefits. You must have at least 10 years of work history to receive full survivor benefits.
Family members who can receive these benefits are:
- The widow or widower, if age 60 or older (age 50 or older if disabled)
- A widow or widower of any age who is caring for the decedent’s child under the age of 16, or who is disabled and receiving benefits on their own SSA record
- A child of the decedent, if unmarried and under 18 years of age, or up to 19 years of age if attending high school full time
- A child of the decedent, if unmarried, who is 18 years of age or older and has a disability that began before age 22
Under certain circumstances, a former surviving spouse, parent, stepchild, or grandchild may be eligible to receive benefits.