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Social Security Retirement Insurance

Becoming Fully Insured

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To be eligible for retirement benefits, the person who has worked and paid into the plan must have accumulated sufficient work credits during his or her lifetime. This is known as being "fully insured."

Number of Work Credits: The number of work credits needed varies depending on the year you were born. People born in 1929 or later need 40 work credits. Fewer work credits are needed for people born before 1929.

Year of Birth

Credits Needed

1929 or later












If You Work For A Non-profit Organization: If you work for a nonprofit organization covered by Social Security since 1984, a special provision applies that may allow you to receive retirement benefits with fewer credits. For more information, see the fact sheet: If You Work For A Non Profit Organization (Social Security Publication No. 05-10027), available at: offsite link, or contact your local Social Security office.

How Work Credits Are Earned:

Earnings for purposes of determining work credits are your total earnings. Earnings include self-employment income, wages, and any other earned income reported to Social Security.

  • Before 1978, employers reported your earnings every 3 months and Social Security called credits "quarters of coverage" (QCs). Back then, you got a QC or credit if you earned at least $50 in a 3-month calendar quarter.
  • In 1978, employers started reporting employee earnings just once a year. Credits are now based on your total wages and self-employment income during the year, no matter when you did the actual work. You might work all year to earn four credits, or you might earn enough for all four in a much shorter length of time.

The amount of earnings it takes to earn one credit changes every year. In 2015, you earn one credit for every $1,220 you earn. You can only earn a maximum of four credits in any calendar year. Once you have earned $4,880 ($1,220 x 4) in the year 2015, you have earned 4 work credits, even if the earnings were all in a short period of time, such as during the month of January.

NOTE: Veterans of the military are eligible to receive extra work credits based on their active duty:

Period When On Active Duty

Extra Amount Counted Toward Work Credit As If It Were Earned Wages

Between 09-01-1940 and 12-31-1956

$ 160 for each month of active duty

Between 01-01-1957 and 12-31-1977

$ 300 for each quarter of active duty

01-01-1978 and After

$100 for each $300 of actual military pay up to a maximum extra credit of $1,200 per year

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