At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Social Security Retirement benefits are paid to American workers who contribute to the Social Security system during their working years. Benefits are also available to the spouses of those who paid into the system over time. The federal government estimates that about 96% of Americans will access this benefit during their retirement years.
The basics of the Social Security system require workers to pay Social Security taxes on their income, and by doing so credits are earned. The credit system is a complex formula, but basically anyone born in or after 1929 will need 40 credits, or ten years of work, to qualify for any Social Security retirement benefits. The benefit increases as a worker obtains more credits. Workers get to keep the credits on a benefits record even if they stop working.
Social Security retirement benefits are based on a person's earnings over time. The more a person earns, and ultimately pays into the system, the more he or she will receive in benefits when they are finally accessed. To qualify for full retirement benefits a worker must be older than 62. This is the earliest that anyone can access their retirement benefits but the actual benefit will be lower than if accessed at age 65. Retirements are reduced indefinitely if a person takes early retirement.
More information can be found in the U.S. federal government's Social Security retirement Benefits handbook, which is free to order. Representatives can discuss specific information since each situation is unique.
Benefits for widows and widowers can begin when a person has reached the age of 60. If the person is disabled, they can actually receive the benefit at age 50. It is also possible for children up to the age of 18 to receive benefits from the program. If a child is disabled, regardless of age, they might qualify to receive benefits under this plan if at least one parent is receiving Social Security retirement.
Retirement benefits can be extended to ex-spouses if a couple was married for at least 10 years. Again, each situation is unique, and the actual amount of Social Security retirement benefits should be discussed with a representative.
Because Social Security retirement benefits are generally not enough to cover the cost of living for retired people, taxpayers should consider other programs and options that are available to them. Most people who qualify for and receive social security retirement also have an alternative retirement plan to help supplement their income. This is something that people should consider as the cost of living increases. Plan early and know what you qualify for by ordering a copy of your retirement statement from the Social Security Administration.