What are SSA benefits?

May 17, 2022

If you’re planning for retirement, you may have questions about your Social Security options. From eligibility to the application and benefits, our guide will help you understand the most important parts of the program.

What does SSA mean?

Many people ask, “What does SSA mean?” “SSA” refers to the Social Security Administration. Founded in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt, this administration provides benefits for retirees, survivors of deceased workers, and the disabled.

What do SSA benefits for retirees do?

When you pay taxes, some of your tax money funds the SSA. After you retire, your SSA benefits replace a certain percentage of the income you earned before retirement. On average, most American retirees receive approximately 40% of their pre-retirement wages from these benefits.1

What are the SSA eligibility requirements?

Your eligibility depends on your age and on the number of “credits” you have. When you pay taxes, you can earn up to four SSA credits per year. Each credit is equal to a certain amount of income, and this amount may be adjusted each year.

For people born after 1928, 40 credits are required to be eligible for benefits. Most people earn 40 credits after working for 10 years.1

What happens to my credits if I stop working?

If you stop working before you’ve earned 40 SSA credits, the credits you’ve earned will stay on your record. You can earn additional credits if you go back to work.1

Will I get more money if I have more than 40 SSA credits?

Having more than 40 credits won’t increase the amount of money you receive through the SSA. Instead, the amount of money you get each month is determined by calculating the average of your wages during the years you’ve worked.2

When should I start receiving SSA benefits?

You can choose to start getting SSA benefits when you turn 62. This age is considered to be “early retirement age.” If you opt to start benefits at 62, your SSA monthly payments will be less than what you would receive by starting benefits at an older age.

 You reach “full retirement age” at age 66 or 67, and you’ll receive your full SSA retirement benefits. There won’t be any reduction in your monthly payment amounts.

For people born from 1943 to 1954, the full retirement age is 66. If you were born between 1955 to 1960, your full retirement age would include several extra months. For people who were born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67.

In some cases, you might opt to delay the start of your SSA benefits. When you delay, your SSA retirement benefits will keep increasing until you reach 70, and your monthly payments will be larger. Once you turn 70, your SSA benefit amount will stop increasing.4

What if I want to keep working past my full retirement age?

When you work past your full retirement age, you will receive more money in the future. For every extra year that you work, you add an additional year of income to your SSA record. This gives you higher lifetime earnings, allowing you to receive higher SSA monthly payments when you start getting benefits.4

When do I apply for SSA benefits?

You can apply for SSA benefits up to four months early. For example, if you want your SSA benefits to start in December, you can apply as early as August.3

How do I apply for SSA benefits?

You can apply for SSA benefits online, over the phone, or at your local SSA office. When you apply, you’ll need to provide the dates and locations of your current and previous employers you’ve worked for over the past two years. If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to provide information about your business and income. 

The SSA will need to review your documents, too. You’ll be asked to provide proof of age and your W-2 or self-employment tax forms from the previous year. Once the SSA has reviewed your application, you’ll be notified of the outcome by letter.3

How are my benefits calculated?

To calculate your monthly SSA benefits, the SSA uses your age and income. The age at which you choose to receive SSA benefits can reduce or increase your monthly payments. For income, the SSA considers your highest earnings over 35 years.3

Can I apply for SSA benefits and Medicare at the same time?

If you are going to turn 65 within three months, you can apply for SSA benefits and Medicare at the same time. You can do this through the online application form, and you can also apply over the phone or by visiting your local SSA office.3

Where can I get help with the application?

If you need assistance with any part of your application, you can find more information on the SSA’s official website. You can also make an appointment at your local SSA office, and a staff member will help you with filling out the application. Phone representatives are available for support too.3

 

Sources:

1: Social Security Administration. “Learn about Retirement Benefits.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/learn.html#h1

2: Social Security Administration. “Social Security Credits.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/credits.html

3: Social Security Administration. “Apply for Retirement Benefits.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/apply.html

4: Social Security Administration. “Starting Your Retirement Benefits Early.” https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/agereduction.html

 

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