7 Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Benefits

Jana Sanford
Published Mar 26, 2024

There are more than 66 million people receiving Social Security benefits each month and that number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. With so many current and expected beneficiaries, Social Security is one of the nation's most important programs. Unfortunately, many Americans do not learn much about the program and its benefits until it is time for them to collect their benefits. Knowing more about the program can change how you approach retirement and your senior years. Here are seven of the most frequently asked questions about Social Security benefits.
 

1 - Do I Have To Be Retired To Collect Social Security Benefits?


You do not have to be retired or stop working to collect Social Security benefits, as long as you have reached the minimum required age. Full benefits cannot be claimed until you reach the full retirement age, but partial benefits are available for those who are younger. However, if you are younger than the full retirement age and make above a certain income threshold, your monthly benefits will be reduced until you reach full retirement age.
 

2 - Can Anyone Other Than Retired Workers Claim Social Security Benefits?


Social Security benefits are not just for retired workers. Spouses, ex-spouses, and children of retirees can qualify for survivor benefits and disabled workers and their families can qualify for disability benefits. The requirements for claiming these benefits are detailed on the Social Security Administration's website.
 

3 - To Be Eligible, How Long Do I Have To Work?


The Social Security Administration uses a credit system to determine eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits. Workers can earn a maximum of four credits per year for working and paying Social Security taxes out of that income. A minimum of 40 credits is required to qualify for benefits, which is the equivalent of 10 years of working and paying into the system.
 

4 - How Old Must I Be To Collect Social Security Benefits?


The minimum age to collect retirement Social Security benefits is 62, while the full retirement age to collect benefits is 67. If you choose to collect retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced by a calculated percentage based on your age. The age requirement is waived for those collecting survivor benefits and those collecting disability benefits.
 

5 - How Does the Sign Up Process for Social Security Benefits Work?


There are multiple ways available for signing up for Social Security benefits. Many people choose to apply in person at their local Social Security office so if they run into any issues, there is someone there to help them. Making an appointment is highly recommended if you intend to apply in person. Applicants can also apply online through the Social Security Administration website or over the phone by dialing 1-800-772-1213.
 

6 - How Are Social Security Benefits Calculated?


Your individual Social Security benefit is calculated by taking the income amount you earned in your 35 highest earning years, plugging that number into a formula that creates an inflation-adjusted average, and using that average to determine the benefit you will receive when you reach full retirement age. If you choose to begin claiming benefits early, your benefits will be reduced by a specific percentage based on how far you are from full retirement age.
 

7 - How Much Is the Maximum Social Security Benefit?


The highest monthly amount a Social Security beneficiary can receive in 2023 is $3,627. To get this amount, you must have earned an amount higher than Social Security's maximum taxable income for at least 35 working years and be at full retirement age. If you meet the income threshold, but begin claiming benefits at the minimum age, you will only be entitled to 70% of that amount, which is roughly $2,539.

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you get the most from your Social Security benefits when you are ready to claim them. There are also many other resources available that can help you determine the right time to apply for your benefits. However, it is important to remember that parts of the program may change between now and whenever you decide to retire. Any changes made have the potential to increase or decrease the benefit you are entitled to when you reach full retirement age.

Related Articles

How to Get the Most Out of Your Senior and Retirement Benefits...

As you near retirement, you must understand all your benefits. Many seniors are surprised to find out how much they're entitled to, and few take advantage of all the options available. It can lead to a ...

Surprising Benefits You Didn't Know You Could Get as a Retiree...

Retirement should be a time to enjoy yourself and reap the rewards of advanced age. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of all the incredible benefits they can receive in retirement. Take advantage of yo...

How FRA Affects Your Social Security Benefits?...

Navigating the intricacies of retirement planning can be daunting, especially when it comes to determining your full retirement age (FRA). As individuals approach this milestone, it's crucial to have a clear understandi...

Discover the Secrets to Retirement Bliss: Your Guide to Maximizing Senior Benefits...

Are you ready to embark on the ultimate journey of your life? Retirement isn't just about leaving your 9-to-5 grind; it's about embracing a new chapter filled with opportunities ...

The Financial Reality of Americans in Their 50s: A Growing Concern...

A recent survey reveals that nearly 1 in 4 Americans in their 50s have become "involuntary retirees" due to health issues, job loss, or caregiving responsibilities. This statistic highlights a ...