Question:

What is a Social Security "credit?"

Answer:

During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your record. You earn Social Security credits based on those earnings. The amount of earnings needed for one credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2014, you receive one credit for each $1,200 of earnings. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits a year. Most people will need 40 credits (or 10 years of work) to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading the online publication How You Earn Credits at http://www.socialsecurity.gov .

I've heard you can apply online for retirement benefits. But isn't it easier just to go into an office?

Answer:

Retiring online is the easier way to go. There's no need to fight traffic to travel to a local Social Security office and wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. Just visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov at http://www.socialsecurity.gov . Once you submit your electronic application, you're done. In most cases there are no forms to sign or documents to mail. Join the millions of people who already retired online.

Question:

What is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits?

Answer:

You can get a reduced benefit as early as age 62. The 1983 Social Security Amendments raised the full retirement age for people born in 1938 and later. But it did not change the minimum age for retirement. Keep in mind that your monthly benefit amount could be about 33 percent higher if you wait until your full retirement age and about 76 percent higher if you defer payments until age 70. Visit our Retirement Estimator to find out how much you can expect to receive depending on the age at which you want to retire. You can find it at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator .



(This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213 or visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov.)

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