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Human Resources

Social Security

What is it?

Social Security reaches almost every family in America. It is not only for older Americans, but also for workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Approximately 161 million people work and pay Social Security taxes and about 57 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits.

One Source of Financial Security

Social Security was never meant to be the only source of income for people when they retire. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income after retiring, and most financial advisors say retirees will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement income earnings to live comfortably.

Who Is Eligible?

As employees work, they earn social security “credits”. In 2013, you earn one credit for each $1,160 in earnings – up to a maximum of four credits per year. The threshold dollar amount to earn a single credit is subject to change each year. Most people need 40 credits (10 years worth of work) to qualify for benefits. Younger people need fewer credits to be eligible for disability or survivor benefits.

When Can I Receive Social Security Benefits?

For those deciding when to begin Social Security benefits, timing is everything. In spite of – or because of – recent economic turmoil, more Americans are relying on Social Security for their retirement plans. According to the Social Security Administration, 54% of married couples 65 and older receive more than half of their income from Social Security. The shrinking number of traditional plans, combined with increased longevity, makes understanding and maximizing Social Security critical.

If you are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, the age at which you can receive full benefits depends on the year in which you were born. If you choose to retire when you reach your full retirement age, you will receive your full benefit amount.

Year of Birth Full Benefit Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943 – 1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67

Early Retirement

You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, if you start your benefits early, your benefits are reduced. Your benefit is reduced by one-half of 1 percent for each month you start your Social Security before your full retirement age. For example, your full retirement age is 66 but you can begin receiving benefits at age 62, you would only receive 75% of your full benefit.

Delayed Retirement

If you choose to delay receiving retirement benefits beyond your full retirement age, your benefit will be increase by a certain percentage depending on the year you were born. The increase will be added in automatically each month you reach full retirement age until you begin taking benefits or reach age 70, whichever comes first.

How Much Will I Receive?

Each year, the Social Security Administration sends employees and former employees age 25 and older a personal Social Security Statement. This is a detailed, personal estimate of monthly Social Security benefit amounts you and your family may qualify for now and in the future.

If you have not received your Social Security Statement in the last 12 months, you can access your statement online, or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

Average 2013 Social Security benefits:

  • Retired Worker: $1,261
  • Retired Couple: $2,048
  • Disabled Worker: $1,132
  • Disabled Worker with a spouse and child: $1,919
  • Widow or widower: $1,214
  • Young widow or widower with two children: $2,592

More Information and Resources

For more information on Social Security benefits please visit the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Social Security website, or contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.