For example, if you worked a total of 20 years, the SSA would add up your income from all 20 years you worked (adjusting for inflation) and then factor in 15 years of zero pay.
Although you need at least 10 years of work (40 credits) to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, we base the amount of your benefit on your highest 35 years of earnings.
If you stop work before you start receiving benefits and you have less than 35 years of earnings, your benefit amount is affected. We use a zero for each year without earnings when we calculate the amount of retirement benefits you are due. Years with no earnings reduces your retirement benefit amount.
Social Security benefits are typically computed using "average indexed monthly earnings." This average summarizes up to 35 years of a worker's indexed earnings.
To collect a monthly retirement benefit, a worker must pay into the system for at least 10 years (they need not be consecutive years). Tough rules in place assure that only workers who have met the 10-year qualification can collect retirement benefits.
The first full special minimum PIA in 1973 was $170 per month. Beginning in 1979, its value has increased with price growth and is $886 per month in 2020. The number of beneficiaries receiving the special minimum PIA has declined from about 200,000 in the early 1990s to about 32,100 in 2019.
Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 10 years of work (40 credits) to be eligible for retirement benefits.
Eligibility. You are eligible to retire at any age after completing 20 years of creditable service. You may also receive a service retirement benefit at age 62, even if you do not have 20 years of creditable service.
That adds up to $2,096.48 as a monthly benefit if you retire at full retirement age. Put another way, Social Security will replace about 42% of your past $60,000 salary. That's a lot better than the roughly 26% figure for those making $120,000 per year.
Plan for Your Future with Your my Social Security Account
With your my Social Security account, you can plan for your future by getting your personalized retirement benefit estimates at age 62, Full Retirement Age (FRA), and age 70.
No 40 Credits, No Retirement
Social Security requires a minimum of 40 credits for retirement benefits, whether you take early retirement at age 62 or wait until your full retirement age which can vary from 65 to 67, depending on the year of your birth. If you don't have the 40 credits, you don't draw any retirement.
If I stop working before I claim Social Security, will my monthly benefit amount be reduced? Strictly speaking, no. If, for example, you stop working at age 60 but wait until 67 to claim Social Security, your benefit will not be reduced because you did not work in those seven years.
Those who make $40,000 pay taxes on all of their income into the Social Security system. It takes more than three times that amount to max out your Social Security payroll taxes. The current tax rate is 6.2%, so you can expect to see $2,480 go directly from your paycheck toward Social Security.
In the case of early retirement, a benefit is reduced 5/9 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of one percent per month.
To qualify for retirement benefits, you need 40 Social Security credits. You earn credits by paying Social Security tax on your income, and you can earn up to four per year. In 2022, $1,510 in earnings equals one credit; you earn four credits after making $6,040 for the year.
But if you can supplement your retirement income with other savings or sources of income, then $6,000 a month could be a good starting point for a comfortable retirement.
If you make $120,000, here's your calculated monthly benefit
According to the Social Security benefit formula in the previous section, this would produce an initial monthly benefit of $2,920 at full retirement age.
With a 4% rate of return, you'd need to earn $217,393 per year and save $2,717 per month to reach $1 million in 20 years. With a 6% rate of return, you'd need to earn $172,283 per year and save $2,153 per month to reach $1 million in 20 years.
For 2022, the special minimum benefit starts at $45.50 for someone with 11 years of coverage and goes to $950.80 for workers with 30 years of coverage. A financial advisor can help you plan your retirement taking into account your Social Security benefits.
Can you retire at 55 to receive Social Security? Unfortunately, the answer is no. The earliest age you can begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits is 62.
While it's true that the last 3 years you work may affect your Social Security benefit amount when you claim, those years alone are not what determine your benefit dollar amount. Rather, your benefit is determined using a formula, which includes the highest earning 35 years of your lifetime working career.
The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2022, your maximum benefit would be $3,345. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2022, your maximum benefit would be $2,364. If you retire at age 70 in 2022, your maximum benefit would be $4,194.