The Social Security program provides a financial foundation for people’s retirement. It also provides essential social insurance coverage to help workers and their families.

Getting the most out of your Social Security benefits can help boost your retirement income. You should take various steps to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your program.

Who It’s For

When most people picture those on social security, they’re probably thinking of the retired members of our society, which is both accurate and not entirely true. As of April 2022, about 70% of the people receiving Social Security benefits were retirees. The rest were former spouses, ex-spouses, children, and disabled workers. The surviving spouses of deceased individuals were also entitled to Social Security benefits.

How Do You Sign Up?

You can apply for your social security benefits online, by phone, or in-person at your local office. For most types of benefits, such as retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, you can do so by calling (800-772-1213). The Social Security Administration strongly advises people to call ahead to make an appointment to help avoid extended waiting periods.

How Many Years Do You Have to Work?

For most retirement benefits, such as retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, you need at least ten years of work. You’ll need to earn around 40 credits a year to qualify for these. For disabled individuals, the credit threshold may be lower, though there is a process one must go through to get this status.

Working While Receiving Benefits?

You can still work while you’re collecting social security benefits. However, your monthly benefits will be reduced if you’re below the full retirement age. Once you reach this age, your benefits will be increased.

Benefits for Spouses and Children

If you’re the surviving spouse of a deceased loved one, you can still receive a survivor benefit, but it won’t be the same as yours. If you’re at full retirement age, your benefit will be worth 100% of what your deceased spouse would have been entitled to receive if they had taken benefits.

What May Reduce Your Benefits

Your benefits will be affected if you have a pension that doesn’t include Social Security taxes. Examples include people who worked for an education system or as railroad workers. Additionally, The Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset are two complicated laws that can affect your claim. The former allows the government to reduce your benefits based on how many years you’ve worked in jobs that don’t pay Social Security taxes. The latter reduces your survivor and spousal benefits by a third.