Most people think Social Security is only for retired people. Many retired
people get Social Security, but many others get it, too. They get it because
- a dependent of someone who gets Social Security; or
- a widow, widower, or child of someone who has died.
So, you might get Social Security at any age.
Social Security is not meant to be your only source of income. It is
to help along with your pension, insurance, and savings.
You must work and pay taxes into Social Security to get payments out
of it. (Of course, some people get payments as a child or widow on another
person's Social Security record.) You pay Social Security taxes during
your working years. Then you and your family receive monthly payments
when you retire or are disabled. Or, your children and spouse get payments
when you die.
As you work and pay taxes, you earn Social Security credits. In 1997,
you got one credit for each $670 you earned.
The money needed to earn one credit goes up every year. You can only
earn four credits in one year.
The number of credits you need to get Social Security depends on your
age and the type of benefit for which you qualify.
Most people need 40 credits to be able to get benefits. That is 10 years
of work. Younger people need fewer credits to get disability benefits
or for their family members to get survivors benefits if they die.
The amount of your Social Security payment is based mostly on your earnings.
It also depends on your date of birth and the type of benefit. You can
get a list of the number of credits you have and how much money you have
earned each year. You will also learn how much you might get from Social
Security. Call 1-800-772-1213. Ask them to send you the form to get a
Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement. Fill out the form and
send it back.
If you are divorced, you may get Social Security payments on your ex-spouse's
work. Were you married at least 10 years? Are you at least 62 years old?
Then you may get payments if your ex-spouse dies or is disabled.
You can apply for benefits at any Social Security office. Social Security
offices are found all across the country. The easiest way to file a claim
is to call their toll-free number for an appointment. Call 1-800-772-1213.
Prepared by Karen
Chan, Extension Educator, Consumer and Family Economics. Adapted from
Understanding Social Security, published by the Social Security
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