You are here: Home Government ... Social Security ... Summary
Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


Social Security Retirement (SSRI) is a federal program that provides a continuous monthly income for covered beneficiaries who have at least reached age 62.

To be covered: you, a spouse, ex-spouse, a parent or someone on whom you are dependent, must be "fully insured" which means you must have made the appropriate number of payments into the Social Security System. Payments are made through F.I.C.A. payroll taxes. Payments become credits. Social Security looks at the number of credits to determine is you are fully insured.

The amount of the benefit to which you are entitled varies depending on whether you take Early Retirement, Full Retirement or Delayed Retirement.

Regardless of your full retirement age, you are still eligible for Medicare at age 65. [To learn more, see Medicare.]

If you are considering early retirement for health reasons, even if you do not think of yourself as "disabled", also see Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

For more information, see:

NOTE: If you are getting ready to apply for SSRI: If you do not have the yearly maximum of four credits this year, it is possible to earn them in a short period of time. Social Security can tell you if it is worth waiting to apply for SSRI until after you've earned the full four credits, even if you are fully insured. Waiting for the additional credits could increase the amount of your retirement benefit if your wages are at least as high as your reported wages from past years. For help figuring it out,call: 800.772.1213.

Amount Of Retirement Benefits

The amount of Social Security Retirement Benefits you will receive is based on two factors:

  • Earnings over your entire working career and
  • The age at which you retire.

Retirement benefits vary depending on which of the following you choose to take:

  • Early Retirement
  • Full Retirement
  • Delayed Retirement

The exact formula for determining your benefits is complicated.

You can obtain an estimate of how much you would be entitled to receive for each of the above retirement classifications by :

  • Going to offsite linkor
  • Contacting Social Security Administration at 800.772.1213 (TTY 800.325.0778). Ask for an Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (SSA 7004SM). Or you may pick up a form to request your Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement at your local Social Security office.

You can calculate an estimate on your own using calculators provided by Social Security at: offsite link. You will need your earnings history to get an estimate.

Local offices can be found at: offsite link.

Social Security maintains a secure site where you can request your personal information via the internet at: offsite link. The statement you will receive from Social Security will include a complete list of your earnings and the F.I.C.A. taxes paid during your lifetime. It will also provide an estimate of your Early, Full, or Delayed Retirement benefit as well as an estimate of spouse /family and disability (SSDI) benefits. The information is available seven days a week, but generally only during business hours. The hours are posted on the site.

An estimate of your benefits will be mailed to you two to four weeks after you submit a request.

You will need to provide the following information in order for your request to be processed:

  • Your name as shown on your Social Security Card
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your date of birth
  • Your place of birth
  • Your mother's maiden name- last name only (to help identify you)

While the numbers you will receive are estimates, they will be more accurate if you also provide your earnings from last year and an estimate of your current and future earnings, if applicable.

NOTE: All benefits are subject to COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustments)

  • Before you start collecting benefits: Whatever benefit amount your calculations indicate you will be entitled to at various ages, keep in mind that the amounts are likely to be increased by the time you actually start taking Social Security Retirement since everyone is eligible for cost of living benefit increases starting at age 62, even if you don’t begin to receive your benefits until age 65 or later. If you wait to receive benefits until your full retirement age or later, the cost of living increases will accumulate from age 62 onward, and will be added to the monthly benefit.
  • Once you have begun collecting benefits: You continue to remain eligible for an annual cost-of-living increase. The cost of living increase is based on the Consumer Price Index, but does not track it exactly. The amount of each year’s increase is published in the Federal Register on or about November 14th and takes effect the following January 1.

Who Is Eligible For Social Security Retirement?

To be covered: you, a spouse, ex-spouse, a parent or someone on whom you are dependent, must be "fully insured" which means the person must have the appropriate number of credits, generally 40 credits, and at leaset reached 62 years of age.

  • Credits are earned as follows: A worker makes payments into the Social Security System through F.I.C.A. payroll taxes. 
  • Payments become credits. The amount required for one credit varies.
  • Social Security looks at the number of credits to determine is you are fully insured. 

The amount of the benefit to varies depending on whether the insured person takes Early Retirement, Full Retirement or Delayed Retirement.

While most of us work in jobs that are covered by Social Security Retirement, this is not the case for everyone. Some employees who are not covered by Social Security include:

  • Most federal employees hired before 1984.
  • Railroad employees with more than 10 years of service. (For more information on Railroad Retirement go to offsite link.)
  • Employees of some state and local governments that chose not to participate in Social Security.
  • Children under age 21 who work for a parent (except a child age 18 or over who works in the parent's business).
  • Self employed people who do not report their earnings to the IRS.

The easy way to tell whether you are eligible for Social Security Retirement is to note whether F.I.C.A. taxes have been withheld from your wages. If the tax has been taken out, you may be eligible. The question then is whether you've been contributing to the plan long enough to be considered fully insured (See Becoming Fully Insured) and are at an age which makes you eligible to receive benefits. (See Amount of Retirement Benefits.)

A spouse, ex-spouse, children and dependents of someone who has paid into Social Security through F.I.C.A. taxes may also be eligible for certain benefits. For information about your situation, see:

Becoming Fully Insured

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

Full Retirement Benefits: Age At Which You Can Receive Full Retirement Benefits

Historically, people could begin collecting their Full Retirement Benefits at age 65. However, since people are living and working much longer, and the percentage of people over age 65 has increased compared to the number of workers below age 65, the age at which anyone born in 1938 or later can collect Full Retirement Benefits is gradually being raised.

Following is a table that lists the revised ages for eligibility for Full Retirement Benefits:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement


1937 or earlier



65 and 2 months


65 and 4 months


65 and 6 months


65 and 8 months


65 and 10 months




66 and 2 months


66 and 4 months


66 and 6 months


66 and 8 months


66 and 10 months

1960 and later


Early Retirement: Amount of Retirement Benefits

A person who is Fully Insured may take early retirement on attaining age 62. However, the amount of monthly income will be lower if you retire at age 62 than if you wait until your Full Retirement Age. The reduction is designed so that the approximate amount of benefits paid over your lifetime (estimated on a statistical basis) will be about the same regardless of when you choose to retire.

If you're considering retiring before Full Retirement Age because you have a medical condition that makes working physically and/or mentally more difficult, consider filing for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). The definition of "disability" is generally easier to meet for people over age 60 than for younger people. The SSDI benefit will be your projected amount at Full Retirement Age, rather than the discounted Early Retirement Amount which begins at age 62.

If your Full Retirement Age is 65, (see the chart immediately above), and you choose early retirement, your current reduction in benefits will be 5/9 of 1% for each month that you will receive benefits prior to age 65.

If your Full Retirement age is above age 65, (that is you were born after 1937), early retirement can start still start at age 62. However, the reduction in your monthly benefit will be greater than it would be for someone whose full retirement age is 65. In this scenario, the standard monthly reduction of 5/9 of 1% still applies for the first 36 months, the difference between age 62 and age 65.

After the first 36 months, the benefit reduces a further 5/12 of 1% for each additional month beyond the 36 months.

Here's an estimate of the reduction in your benefit if your full retirement age is 67:

Age you start taking benefits

Full Retirement Age












13 1/3%



13 1/3%

6 2/3%


13 1/3 %

6 2/3%



6 2/3%




Delayed Retirement

Just as you have the option of taking early retirement, you have the option to continue to work beyond your Full Retirement Age and delay starting your benefits.

If you choose to delay retirement, you will receive a monthly benefit greater than the Full Retirement Benefit. Just as the Early Retirement Amount is reduced because you will probably collect it longer, the Delayed Retirement Benefit is larger because averages say you won't collect it as long. Additionally, the odds are you will be earning more now than in your early years so the 40 credits used to calculate your benefit will be from a higher base than if you didn't add the higher earnings years.

The amount of any increase varies with your date of birth. This again is meant to provide approximately the same total benefit over a person's lifetime, regardless of the age at which the collection of benefits begins. The percentage increase in the Delayed Retirement Benefit over the Full Retirement Benefit is shown in the table below:

Year of Birth

Yearly Rate of Increase

1917 -- 1924


1925 -- 1926


1927 -- 1928


1929 -- 1930


1931 -- 1932


1933 -- 1934


1935 -- 1936


1937 -- 1938


1939 -- 1940


1941 -- 1942


1943 or later


Calculations: If you want to calculate the benefit amounts you would receive if you started retirement at different ages, take a look at the Social Security Retirement Planner at offsite link. It has a calculator that allows you to get a quick, online calculation of benefits based on earnings and other information that you provide. Because of confidentiality concerns, Social Security will not display your real earnings record on line.

Impact of Other Pension Benefits On Social Security Retirement Benefits

Private Pensions: Group and Individual

There is no impact on Social Security Retirement benefits due to income from employer or individual private pensions.

Pensions from work not covered by Social Security: Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision:

If during your employment history you worked for an employer who didn't withhold Social Security taxes, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, and you receive a pension based on that income, the amount of money you receive from that pension may reduce any Social Security benefits for which you are also eligible.

Your benefit can be reduced in one of two ways:

  • "Windfall Elimination Provision" effects how your retirement or disability benefits are figured if the pension you receive is from work not covered by Social Security, such as a teacher's pension. The standard formula used in this instance to figure your benefit amount is modified, giving you a lower Social Security benefit. A fact sheet which describes this situation, and provides a computation formula, is located at offsite link

  • "Government pension offset" applies if the other pension you receive is from a government pension and you are eligible for Social Security benefits as a spouse or widow(er). For more information on the offset, see the fact sheet Government Pension Offset offsite link (Publication No. 05-10007), available at: offsite link

For Additional Information on Social Security Retirement

See: offsite link.

Working While Collecting Social Security Retirement Benefits

If you work while collecting your Social Security Retirement benefit, the impact on the benefit you receive depends on your age as well as the type of Social Security benefit you are collecting.

If you are younger than Full Retirement Age: If you are younger than Full Retirement Age and collecting Early Retirement Amount, $1 in Social Security benefits will be deducted for each $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2011, the annual limit is $14,160.

If you have reached Full Retirement Age or older: During the year in which you reach Full Retirement Age, the impact of income from work on the amount you receive from Social Security is different for the part of the year before your birthday and the part afterward. For the period before your birthday, for every $3 you earn above a set limit, your retirement benefit will be reduced by $1. For the year 2011, the earnings limit is $37,680.

Starting with the month in which you reach Full Retirement Age, you will receive your full benefits regardless of how much you earn. In other words, once you reach Full Retirement Benefit, you receive your full benefit no matter how much you earn.

Taxation of Social Security Benefits

Depending on your income and tax filing status, a portion of your social security benefits may be taxable.

If you file a federal tax return as an "individual:"

  • If your combined income* is between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay taxes on 50 percent of your Social Security benefits.
  • If your combined income* is above $34,000, up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefits is subject to income tax.

If you file a joint return:

  • You may owe income taxes on 50 percent of your benefits if you and your spouse have a combined income* that is between $32,000 and $44,000.
  • If your combined income* is more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your Social Security benefits is subject to income tax.

If you are married and lived with your spouse at any time during the years and filed separately:

  • 85% of your Social Security benefits may be taxable.

* "Combined" income means you and your spouse's adjusted gross income (as reported on your Form 1040) plus nontaxable interest plus one-half of your Social Security benefits.

At the end of each year, you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) in the mail showing the amount of benefits you received. You can use this statement when you are completing your federal income tax return to find out if any of your benefits are subject to tax.

For more information on tax on your Social Security benefits, call your accountant or tax attorney. You can also call the Internal Revenue Service's toll-free telephone number, 800.829.3676 to ask for Publication 554, Tax Information for Older American available at: offsite link.

Spouses: Benefits For Spouses

If you are the spouse or ex-spouse of a worker who receives Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits, you may be eligible for benefits because of your relationship to the worker even if the worker is deceased. This is in addition to any Social Security benefits to which you may be entitled in your own right.


As a spouse or ex-spouse, you are not eligible for benefits merely because of your marriage. The worker must receive (or have received if he or she is deceased) SSR.  (If the worker received SSDI, click here.)

You are eligible to receive benefits if:

  • Your spouse is receiving Social Security Retirement Income (SSR)
  • Your spouse is deceased, and you were married at the date of his or her death, and he or she received SSR before his or her death. 
  • You are age 62 or older or you are the spouse, and taking care of a child of you and your spouse and the child is under age 16 or is disabled.
  • The fact that the spouse in question could be "disabled" doesn't count unless he or she is applying for his or her own benefits.

With respect to Social Security Retirement, it also doesn't matter whether the spouse is collecting Social Security Retirement as long as the worker spouse fulfills the requirements that would permit the spouse to receive the benefit. For example, Richard and Annie are both age 63. Richard could retire early from work and start collecting Social Security Retirement, but he hasn't. Annie never worked in the workplace. She's been a homemaker. Annie can qualify now for a Social Security benefit as a spouse.

A Spouse's Own Eligibility: If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then Social Security pays the retirement benefit. Otherwise Social Security pays the spousal benefit.

There is a limit to the amount of money payable to a family each month.

Start the sign-up process by calling Social Security. You can file an appeal if you are turned down.

Amount of Benefit

As the spouse of an eligible worker you can receive one-half (50%) of the worker's full benefit unless you begin collecting benefits before age 65, or the worker's Full Retirement Age for purposes of SSR, if later.(For a definition of "Full Retirement Age" see Security Retirement.) In that case, the amount of your benefit is permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months between the time you apply for the benefit and the time you will reach age Full Retirement Age. For example, if you begin collecting benefits at age 64, the benefit amount would be about 46% of the worker's full benefit. At age 63, it would be about 42% and at age 62, 37.5%.

If you care for a Child

You will receive full benefits, regardless of your age, if you are taking care of a child who is under age 16 or of a child who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits. The benefits will end the month before the youngest child turns 16, although the child will continue receiving benefits until age 18.

Dual Eligibility

If you're eligible for both your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, you will get your own benefit first. If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your own retirement benefit, you'll get a combination of benefits equaling the higher benefit. For Example: Mary Ann qualifies for a retirement benefit of $250 and a spouse's benefit of $400. At age 65, she will receive her own $250 retirement benefit and Social Security will add $150 from her spousal benefit, for a total of $400. If she takes her retirement benefit at any time before she turns 65, both amounts will be reduced.

If you are a survivor, see Survivors.