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Learn About Requirements for Social Security Retirement Benefits

Social Security retirement benefits are available to seniors who meet the age, citizenship and work contribution criteria established by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Seniors qualify for Social Security retirement benefits on a case-by-case evaluation, depending on the year they were born, citizenship status and how much they have contributed to their retirement funds by paying Social Security taxes. To properly determine who is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and calculate what each person’s benefits amount should be, the SSA requires personal and professional details about seniors and their family members. To learn more about the eligibility requirements to get SS retirement benefits, continue reading below.

What are Social Security retirement benefits?

Social Security retirement benefits for seniors provide a stable and secure retirement for workers who have reached the minimum age to retire, have paid sufficient Social Security taxes and meet citizenship requirements. Along with savings and pension plans, Social Security benefits are one of the most important elements of a senior’s retirement portfolio.

Though Social Security retirement benefits eligibility requirements vary according to each person, there are three major pieces to the criteria established by the SSA: citizenship status, retirement age and amount of contributions made. Seniors who qualify for Social Security retirement benefits can file an application that will determine the benefits amount they are eligible to receive. If a senior passes away, these Social Security benefits may be passed along to surviving spouses or children as long as they meet the requirements established by the SSA.

When do you qualify for SS retirement benefits?

The age criteria for seniors to receive full Social Security benefits varies according to each person’s year of birth, but it ranges from 65 to 67 years of age, taking months into consideration. To learn more about qualifications, download our guide.

Early Social Security retirement benefits for seniors may be available to eligible workers who have reached a certain age, met the citizenship criteria and made a certain amount of contributions. However, the SS retirement benefits in these cases are significantly reduced to account for early retirement. Early or late retirement will give seniors the same total SS benefits over their lifetimes, but the monthly SS benefits amount will be reduced in the case of early retirement in order to account for the longer period of time seniors will be receiving these benefits. According to the SSA, the youngest possible age for seniors to claim early Social Security retirement is 62 years of age, but in that case, their monthly benefits would typically be reduced by approximately 30 percent.

Conversely, if seniors delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits until after they surpass their full retirement age requirement, they can qualify for delayed retirement credits that would increase their monthly benefits amounts. As seniors decide when the best time would be for them to retire and begin claiming these SS benefits, they should consider the following:

  • If seniors still expect to live for a long period of time, they should be mindful that postponing SS senior retirement benefits is most likely a smarter choice so that the total Social Security benefits amount is sufficient for the entire retirement period. Conversely, if seniors are not in good health, they may decide to claim early retirement.
  • If seniors choose to stop working, they should evaluate whether they are eligible for retiree health benefits through their employers. Otherwise, health insurance costs should be considered for the retirement period.

How to Determine Qualifications for Social Security Retirement Benefits

Social Security retirement benefits eligibility for seniors is not only based on an age criteria, but also on citizenship status and the amount of Social Security contributions they have made over time. When seniors pay Social Security retirement taxes, they earn “credits” that accumulate toward Social Security retirement benefits. The contribution requirements to get SS retirement benefits are based on the year seniors were born, but they typically need at least 40 credits – which generally translate to 10 years of work – in order to retire. Seniors may not qualify for SS retirement benefits if they stop working before reaching the number of credits required for SS retirement. However, credits earned will never expire, thus giving seniors the chance to return to work later and add more credits in order to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. To learn more about retirement benefits, download our guide.

In determining who is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, the SSA takes into consideration a senior’s citizenship status. Typically, as long as the workers are in the United States lawfully and meet the previously mentioned eligibility requirements, they qualify to receive Social Security benefits. Thus, noncitizens who were authorized to work in the United States and received a Social Security Number (SSN) and/or noncitizens who were admitted for permanent residence under an Immigration Nationality Act (INA) classification may qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.