Who is Eligible for Social Security?
Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®
Updated on March 31, 2021
Social Security Eligibility
Social Security is the public pension system in the United States for retired and disabled persons and their families.
This system pays several different kinds of benefits to millions of recipients each month depending upon their circumstances.
But in order to qualify for benefits, you have to meet certain requirements.
In order to qualify for any type of Social Security benefits, you must either be a U.S. citizen or a qualifying non-citizen such as a permanent resident alien or someone who has applied for and received political asylum.
Basically, anyone who is legally present in the U.S. under accepted circumstances is eligible to qualify.
Once your citizenship status has been ascertained, the Social Security Administration will look at your work history to see whether you have worked in one or more jobs that paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify for benefits.
The eligibility for benefits is based on a crediting system where a worker can earn up to four credits a year.
A minimum dollar amount must be earned in each quarter, or crediting period in order to qualify.
This dollar amount is indexed annually for inflation.
For 2020, the minimum amount you need to earn in a quarter of coverage is $1,410.
You need to have at least 40 quarters of qualifying employment in order to be able to apply for Social Security benefits.
This means that you will have to have worked a qualifying job that paid into the Social Security system for at least ten years in order to become eligible for Social Security benefits.
The earliest age at which you can apply for Social Security benefits is age 62.
However, your retirement benefit will be reduced by 25% if you do this.
You will have to wait until you reach your full retirement age in order to collect your full benefit.
Your full retirement age will depend on what year you were born in and can range from 65 to 67 years old depending upon your age.
The age calculation is broken down as follows:
You can also wait to collect benefits until after your full retirement age in order to collect a higher benefit.
Your benefit will increase by 8% for each year that you wait to collect benefits until you reach age 70, by which time your total benefit will be 132% of what it was at your full retirement age.
The question of what age is best to begin collecting benefits can be a complex one in many cases.
Many financial planners use sophisticated software that takes many different variables into account in order to determine the answer to this question.