social security benefits: Social Security benefits are an essential part of the American social safety net. Established in 1935 as part of the New Deal, the Social Security program provides a source of income to eligible individuals and their families in the event of retirement, disability, or death. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at Social Security benefits, including who’s eligible and how the program works.
Eligibility for Social Security Benefits
To be eligible for Social Security benefits, an individual must have worked for a certain period and earned enough credits. Workers can earn up to four credits per year based on their income, with the number of credits needed to qualify for benefits depending on the type of benefit. Generally, a worker needs 40 credits, or 10 years of work, to be eligible for retirement benefits.
In addition to meeting the credit requirements, an individual must be at least 62 years old to receive retirement benefits. However, the longer an individual waits to claim benefits, the higher the monthly benefit amount will be. For example, an individual who waits until age 70 to claim benefits can receive up to 32% more per month than someone who claims at age 66.
For disability benefits, an individual must have a medical condition that prevents them from working for at least a year or is expected to result in death. The process of applying for disability benefits can be lengthy and involve multiple steps, including medical evaluations and hearings.
Survivors’ benefits are available to spouses, children, and other eligible family members of a worker who has died. To qualify for survivors’ benefits, the worker must have earned enough credits, and the surviving family member must meet certain age, disability, or relationship requirements.
How Social Security Benefits Work
Social Security benefits are funded by payroll taxes, with workers and employers each contributing 6.2% of the worker’s wages (up to a certain amount) to the Social Security trust fund. Self-employed individuals must pay both the employer and employee portion of the tax, or 12.4% of their net earnings.
The amount of Social Security benefits an individual receives is based on their average lifetime earnings, adjusted for inflation. The Social Security Administration calculates an individual’s benefits using a complex formula that takes into account the highest 35 years of earnings, with lower-earning years replaced by zero. The formula is designed to provide higher benefits to lower-income workers and a lower replacement rate for higher-income workers.
Once an individual becomes eligible for benefits, they can choose to begin receiving payments as early as age 62, though the monthly benefit amount will be reduced if they claim early. Alternatively, they can delay claiming benefits until age 70 and receive a higher monthly benefit amount.
Social Security benefits are an important source of income for millions of Americans, providing a financial safety net for retirement, disability, and survivors. Understanding how the program works and who’s eligible can help individuals make informed decisions about their retirement planning and financial security