Can You Lose Credits
Once you’ve earned Social Security credits, they stay on your record even if you have a gap in your work history. When you return to work, you’ll continue to add to your credit total.
It’s important to remember, though, that certain jobs don’t pay income that’s subject to Social Security taxes, so you won’t earn credits on your earnings there. For instance, many state and local government workers pay into a separate pension system in lieu of making Social Security tax payments, so while their earnings will help them be eligible for pension benefits in the future, they won’t count toward receiving Social Security benefits.
How Social Security Credits Got Started
The idea of requiring people to work for a set period of time in order to qualify for Social Security benefits goes back to the origins of the program. The 1935 law establishing Social Security set a timeline for monthly benefits to begin in 1942. Under that concept, the period from 1937 to 1942 would help to give time for payroll tax revenues to build up a positive balance in the Social Security trust funds, which were designed to provide a pool of money from which to pay benefits. The delay would also provide a minimum period of participation in the workforce in order to receive benefits.
A 1936 government pamphlet gives some guidelines for how eligibility for Social Security initially worked. According to the pamphlet, workers would be able to receive monthly checks from the federal government beginning at age 65 “if you worked some time in each of any 5 years after 1936, and have earned during that time a total of $2,000 or more.”
What Is Social Security
The Social Security program was established in 1935 to provide retirement income for certain U.S. workers. It was later expanded to cover most of the workforce. Today, it remains Americas pension plan and the financial lifeline that many people use to stay afloat in their old age.
Social Security provides 37% of elderly men and 42% of elderly women with at least 50% of their income. For 12% of elderly men and 15% of elderly women, its at least 90% of their income. There are specific rules for filing or updating your Social Security.
How does Social Security work? Regardless of your age, you really should know. Here are the answers to 10 questions that people most often ask.
Recommended Reading: How Can I Lock My Social Security Number
Federal Benefits And Social Security
Within the American Citizens Services office in Asuncion we provide assistance to persons residing in Paraguay who are already receiving or who are eligible to apply for U.S. federal retirement benefits.
The Regional Federal Benefits Unit is responsible for providing services to all the Caribbean, Central and South American countries. It assists U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who have inquiries or receive benefits from the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It has staff located at three U.S. Embassies: Santo Domingo, San Jose, and Buenos Aires.
How Your Social Security Benefits Are Earned
To be eligible for Social Security benefits in retirement, you must earn at least 40 “credits” throughout your career. You can earn as many as four credits a year, so it takes 10 years of work to qualify for Social Security.
In 2021, you must earn $1,470 to get one Social Security work credit and $5,880 to get the maximum four credits for the year.
Also Check: Are Social Security Benefits Taxed
Myth #: You’ll Never Get Back All The Money You Put Into The Program
Everyone’s situation is different, but if you live a long time, you may collect more than you contributed to the system.
Due to the complexity of claiming strategies and number of variables involved, the SSA no longer offers a break-even calculator on its website. Social Security is designed to provide a safety net of income for the retired, the disabled, and survivors of deceased insured workers. The contributions you and your employers make during your working years provide:
While the government does not have a specific account set aside just for you with your FICA contributions , one of the most powerful features of Social Security is that it provides an inflation-protected guaranteed income stream in retirement, ensuring against the risk you’ll outlive your savings. Even if you live to 100 or more, you’ll continue to receive income every month. And, if you predecease your spouse, your spouse also receives survivor benefits until their death.
Qualifying For Social Security Credits Work Credits Earn Social Security Benefits
Earning Social Security Credits When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn Social Security credits. Most people earn the maximum of four Social Security credits per year. Each of the three main Social Security programs accumulates credits in the same way. In 2010, you received one Social Security credit for each $1,120 of earnings.
In future years, the amount of earnings needed for a Social Security credit will rise as earnings rise. The Social Security credits you earn will remain on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or have a period of no earnings. Self-employed individuals and military personnel earn Social Security credits in the same way as regular workers.
However, special rules apply for certain types of work. If you have one of the following types of jobs, contact your nearest Social Security Administration office or call 1-800-772-1213 for more information: Domestic Work Farm Work Church or church-controlled organization that is exempt from Social Security taxes.
For more information , contact your nearest Social Security Administration office or call 1-800-772-1213.
Social Security Disability Benefits Disabled workers qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits based on their work history, and the amount of the Disability Benefit is based on their earnings. The number of Social Security credits required for Disability Benefits depends on the age when a worker becomes disabled.
How Can You Maximize Your Own Benefits
For most older Americans thinking about claiming Social Security benefits, it’s too late to change your earnings record or to go back and earn more every year. But you can control both of the other two factors on this list you can make sure you’ve worked for at least 35 years prior to claiming benefits, and you can wait until 70 to claim them. Both of these steps can mean getting larger benefits, which can provide you with more financial security in your later years.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.
Offer from the Motley Fool:The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.
Work Credits And Quarters
At one time, Social Security work credits were also known as “quarters of work.” You had to earn the work credit amount in a single quarter , and could earn no more than a single credit in a quarter. That is no longer the case. You earn work credits on the minimum $1,360 of earnings no matter when or how frequently you earn them. Theoretically, you could earn four work credits in a single month in which you make $5,440. That would max out your work credits for the year, however.
You May Like: How Much Social Security Will I Receive At 64
How To Receive Federal Benefits
To begin receiving your federal benefits, like Social Security or veterans benefits, you must sign up for electronic payments with direct deposit.
If You Have a Bank or Credit Union Account:
- Call the Go Direct Helpline at .
If You Don’t have a Bank or Credit Union Account:
- Direct Express debit card – a pre-paid debit card. Get help by calling the Go Direct Helpline at .
Make Changes to an Existing Direct Deposit Account:
Learn how to make changes to an existing direct deposit account. You also may contact the federal agency that pays your benefit for help with your enrollment.
Who Misses Out On Social Security Benefits And Why
Does everyone get Social Security? No. Still, American workers who will not qualify for Social Security retirement benefits are relatively rare. If you are one of them, its important to know, so you can secure other sources of income or determine whether its possible for you to become eligible. What follows are the eight most common categories of workers who lack Social Security eligibility and thus are not entitled to benefits.
Also Check: How Do I Order Social Security Card
How Social Security Works
The Social Security Administration uses a multi-step formula to calculate just how much any given American gets in benefits. Factors include marriage, lifetime contributions, work history and more. But the purpose is always the same: to make sure that everyone who works has a safety net for retirement. To understand just how important that is we have to recall how senior citizens lived before President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration invented this program.
Although precise measurement hadn’t yet begun, most estimates suggest that in 1934 approximately half of all seniors lived in poverty. Most estimates suggest that this figure would have changed little over the past 84 years without the Social Security program. Instead, by 1959 this figure had fallen to 35%. By the year 2000 only 1-in-10 seniors lived in poverty, a number that has stayed largely consistent to this day. In many very real ways, Social Security created the concept of retirement.
Of course, there’s still far to go. Nearly a third of seniors still live within 200% of the poverty line, and many more still struggle to pay their bills.
What Kind Of Income Qualifies To Earn Social Security Credits
Not all of your income counts for purposes of determining how many Social Security credits you’ll get in a given year. Social Security looks only at “earned income” in its calculations. For most people, that includes wages and salaries. Tips are included in the mix as long as those tips get reported to the IRS. Certain benefits, such as vacation pay and severance pay, also go into the credit calculation.
Self-employment income is treated the same way as earned income is, especially since the self-employment tax paid by those who work for themselves includes both the worker and employer shares of the payroll taxes that go to fund Social Security.
One exception to the rules above applies to those who work for certain state and local government entities. Some of these government bodies elect to maintain their own pension plans as alternatives to Social Security. If they do so — rather than choosing to participate in Social Security voluntarily — then participants will typically get their retirement benefits solely from the government-run pension rather than through Social Security.
There are special rules governing what happens when someone works a portion of their career at such an employer and another part at a job covered under Social Security, but that typically affects the amount of the benefit checks that they’ll receive rather than their initial eligibility to get any benefits from the program at all.
Next Steps To Consider
This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.
Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially impact investment results. Fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.
Investing involves risk, including risk of loss.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917
Certain Government And Railroad Employees
There are some jobs that dont pay into Social Security. Federal government employees hired before 1984 are included in the Civil Service Retirement System , which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. These workers did not have Social Security taxes deducted from their paychecks and thus are not eligible to receive Social Security benefits.
They may still qualify if they have earned benefits through another job or a spouse. However, in these cases, CSRS pension payments may reduce Social Security payouts. Government workers who are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System , which replaced CSRS, are eligible for Social Security benefits.
Most state and local employees have Social Security protection under a federal Section 218 agreement. However, some of these workersincluding those who work for a public school system, college, or universitywill not receive Social Security benefits if they do not pay Social Security taxes. They generally receive pension benefits from their employers.
Recommended Reading: When Should One Apply For Social Security
What Social Security Services Do We Provide
Below, please find a list of some of the services we provide on behalf of the Social Security Administration.
You can receive a proof of income letter free of charge by contacting the Regional Federal Benefits Unit via our online inquiry form.
You may apply for an original or replacement Social Security Card through the Regional Federal Benefits Unit.
U.S. citizens, non-citizens eligible for Social Security Benefits, and non-citizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security can apply for a Social Security number.
You can request an appointment for this service by contacting the Regional Federal Benefits Unit via our online inquiry form.
Non-Resident Aliens / Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
Several classes of non-resident aliens are required to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number in order to file U.S. taxes. To obtain an ITIN, you must file IRS Form W-7 with the Internal Revenue Service. You may obtain a W-7 form via the Internet
The Social Security Administration has suspended the field office issuance of Social Security Earnings Statement. However, an individual can download and complete the Form SSA-7004, Request for Social Security Statement, then print, sign, and mail it to request a statement. The form SSA-7004 can be printed from the following link: form SSA 7004
Additional Criteria For Disability Benefits
In addition to having the required work credits, you will also need the proper medical evidence to prove the existence of your disability and how it limits your ability to work. You will need to consult the SSA blue book. The blue book is a listing of all of conditions and the criteria that needs to be met in order to qualify for disability benefits. This can be found on the SSA website. If your conditions does not meet a listing in the blue book, you are able to enlist the help of a doctor to fill out a residual Functional Capacity Form. This form is essentially a doctors assessment of the limitations that a disability has put on your ability to work.
Also Check: Do I Need To Renew My Social Security Card
How Were Credits Earned For Years Before 1978
To earn credits for the years before 1978, you must have:
Earned at least $50 in wages for employment coveredunder the law in any calendar quarter beginning January 1, April1, July 1, or October 1
Earned at least $100 in annual wages paid for agricultural labor for years after 1954 and before 1978 or $50 in wages paidfor agricultural labor in any calendar quarter in 1951 through 1954.
Earned at least $400 in annual net earnings from self- employment in taxable years 1951 through 1977 or
Earned the maximum taxable wages for that year. For maximum taxable wages, .
Why A Social Security Earnings Record Mistake Matters
A mistake in your earnings history can make a big difference in how your Social Security benefits are calculated. How? It all goes back to the benefits formula. The Social Security Administration uses your highest 35 years of earnings as a cornerstone of the benefit calculation. If any of these 35 years are incorrect or missing altogether, the average is skewed. One year of missing earnings can make a difference of $100 per month in your benefit amount. Over your lifetime, that could be nearly $30,000 in missed benefits from one year of missing earnings.
You need to check your Social Security earnings record today. Thankfully, its pretty easy to do.
Heres how to accomplish this in five easy steps.
Also Check: Can You Get Another Social Security Number