Are you approaching retirement age and wondering what you need to know about social security benefits? It’s a complex system, but with the right knowledge, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In this article, we’ll explain the basics of social security so that you can make an informed decision about your own benefits.

Social security is a government program that provides financial assistance for qualifying individuals who are either elderly or disabled. It is funded by workers’ wages and taxes, which are collected by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This money is then used to pay out benefits to those who qualify. The amount of money that each individual receives depends on their work history and other factors.

Understanding social security can be confusing and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right information, you can make sure you get all the benefits you’re entitled to. So let’s dive in and explore what you need to know about social security benefits!


Social Security benefits are a form of financial assistance provided to individuals by the federal government. It’s an important part of many people’s retirement plans, and it can provide income security in retirement, disability, or death. To understand what Social Security benefits are, it’s important to first look at the history of the program.

The Social Security Act was enacted in 1935 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Program during the Great Depression. The act was designed to help protect workers who were hurt or disabled on the job, as well as their families. Over time, it became a way for retired workers to receive monthly income after they stopped working.

Today, Social Security is more than just retirement benefits—it provides protection for individuals and their families if something happens to them that prevents them from working. This includes disability and death benefits for survivors. Understanding how these different types of benefit programs work is key to understanding how one can access and use Social Security benefits.

In summary, Social Security is a program established by the federal government that provides financial assistance to individuals who have retired from work or experienced a disability or death in their family. It has grown over time from its original purpose of providing income security for retirees into being a source of protection for those who need additional support due to unforeseen circumstances in life.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for Social Security benefits, you must first meet a few requirements. First, you must be at least 62 years old. You can also qualify if you are disabled or blind and are between the ages of 18 and 64. Secondly, you must have worked in a job covered by Social Security for at least 10 years. Lastly, your family may also be eligible for certain types of benefits even if you do not qualify yourself.

Keep in mind that there are special rules for certain individuals who are self-employed or only worked part-time jobs. It’s important to check with the Social Security Administration for specific eligibility requirements related to your situation. You can do this online or by calling the local office nearest you.

It’s important to understand the eligibility requirements before applying for Social Security benefits so that you don’t waste time and effort on an application that won’t be approved. Be sure to take the time to research all of your options carefully before submitting an application.

Types Of Benefits

Social Security benefits can be divided into two distinct categories: retirement benefits and disability benefits. Retirement benefits are paid when a worker reaches the age of 62 or older, while disability benefits are available to those who have become unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment.

Retirement benefits are based on the amount of money an individual has earned over their lifetime, as well as the age at which they choose to take them. The earlier someone begins taking their Social Security retirement benefit, the lower their monthly payment will be. If a worker waits until full retirement age (usually 66 or 67) to begin receiving payments, they will receive their full monthly benefit amount.

The amount of disability benefit that one receives is based on how much money they were earning prior to becoming disabled. Generally, workers must have worked and contributed to Social Security for five out of the past 10 years in order to qualify for disability payments. Additionally, individuals must meet certain medical criteria in order for their condition(s) to be considered a “disability” under Social Security law. Those who qualify can receive monthly payments beginning immediately after they become disabled.

How To Apply

If you’re ready to apply for Social Security benefits, there are a few things you should know. First and foremost, you must be at least 62 years old to qualify. Additionally, you must have worked a certain number of years in jobs covered by Social Security in order to receive retirement benefits. Once you’ve determined that you meet the criteria, the next step is to gather all of the necessary documents and information for your application. This includes your social security number, birth certificate, any military service records and proof of your recent earnings.

The easiest way to apply for Social Security is online through their website. Here, you will find an application form that can be filled out and submitted electronically. Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to use the online system, you can also call or visit your local Social Security office and speak with a representative who will help guide you through the process.

Once your application has been submitted and processed, it can take up to three months before you start receiving benefits. In the meantime, it’s important to keep track of any correspondence that may come from the Social Security Administration regarding your application status so that any issues can be addressed quickly. Making sure every required document has been provided will help expedite this process as well. It’s also important to remember that when applying for Social Security benefits there are limits on how much money a person can receive each month; so make sure to research those restrictions prior to submitting an application.

When To Start Collecting Benefits

Now that you know how to apply for Social Security benefits, the next step is to decide when to start collecting them. Generally, there are two main options: retire at 62 or wait until 66 or later. The choice you make will depend on your individual needs and circumstances.

Retiring at 62 is the earliest age you can begin Social Security benefits, but it’s important to be aware of the drawbacks. If you decide to do this, your benefit amount will be lower than if you waited until full retirement age–which varies depending on your birth year–or even longer. This means that if you choose to retire at 62, your monthly income could be significantly reduced from what it would have been if you’d waited.

On the other hand, waiting until 66 or beyond means that your monthly benefit amount will increase substantially from what it would have been if you retired at 62. So if your financial situation allows it and you want a higher benefit amount, waiting is likely the best option for you. Additionally, by waiting until full retirement age (66 for most people), Social Security won’t reduce or withhold any of your benefits due to earnings from work outside of retirement.

Ultimately, whether retiring early or late is right for you depends on a variety of factors like your health and financial situation as well as how much money you need each month in order to meet all of your expenses. Consider these elements carefully before making a decision about when to start collecting Social Security benefits so that they meet all of your needs in retirement.

Cost Of Living Adjustments

Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) are an important aspect of Social Security benefits. COLAs help ensure that the buying power of Social Security benefits keeps up with the cost of living. The amount of a COLA can vary from year to year, but it’s based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W. The Social Security Administration (SSA) usually announce COLAs in October, and they become effective with benefits payable for the following January.

COLAs are not automatic; they have to be approved by Congress and signed into law by the President. They’ve been granted every year since 1975, except for 2010-2011 when there was no increase due to low inflation. In 2020, recipients received a 1.6% increase in their benefits over 2019 levels – the highest increase since 2012.

COLAs also apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, which are federal income supplements for people with limited incomes and resources who are disabled, blind or age 65 or older. They also help veterans receive increased disability compensation each year based on changes in the cost of living since their last disability rating decision was made. For those who rely on Social Security or SSI payments to cover basic expenses, COLAs can make a critical difference in their quality of life.

Spousal Benefits

Moving on from Cost of Living Adjustments, let’s turn our attention to spousal benefits. To qualify for spousal benefits, a married couple must meet certain criteria set out by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The spouse who is eligible for benefits must be at least 62 years old or disabled. Additionally, the other spouse must already be receiving retirement or disability benefits.

In most cases, the spousal benefit is worth up to 50% of the primary worker’s benefit amount. However, this amount can vary depending on when the spouse claiming benefits starts collecting them. For instance, if you opt to start collecting at age 62 instead of your full retirement age, you may get a reduced benefit amount.

It’s important to note that divorced spouses are also eligible for spousal benefits under certain conditions. The marriage must have lasted 10 years or more and you must be unmarried when filing your claim. In addition, you must have been eligible for Social Security Retirement Benefits but not have actually applied. If these conditions are met, a divorcee may receive up to 50% of their former spouse’s benefit amount upon reaching full retirement age.

Knowing about spousal benefits can help couples maximize their Social Security payments in retirement so they can enjoy financial stability and security throughout their golden years.

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are provided to surviving family members of eligible workers who have passed away. These benefits can help surviving spouses, children, and other family members. To be eligible for these benefits, the deceased worker must have worked long enough to be eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Surviving spouses are eligible to receive a benefit that is equal to 100% of the deceased worker’s retirement benefit, if they begin receiving it at full retirement age. If they begin receiving the benefit before full retirement age, the amount will be reduced. Surviving spouses may also be able to receive an additional amount if they have dependent children or caring for a child under 16 years old who is disabled and entitled to Social Security disability benefits.

Family members may also be eligible for survivor benefits if they are unmarried and meet other criteria set by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA requires family members such as children, grandchildren, stepchildren and adopted children under 18 years old (or 19-22 years old if they are attending school full-time) may be eligible for survivor’s benefits on the record of a deceased parent. They can also qualify if they are disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.

These survivor benefits can provide important financial support for those who have lost a loved one who was entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits. It is important to contact the SSA when someone passes away in order to determine eligibility for these types of benefits so that the surviving family members can get the financial assistance they need during this difficult time.

Taxation Of Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits may be subject to taxation depending on the recipient’s income. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires taxpayers to include up to 85% of their Social Security benefits in taxable income if their combined income is above certain levels. Combined income is calculated by adding the adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest, and half of the Social Security benefits received. If a taxpayer’s combined income is above $25,000 as an individual or $32,000 as a married couple filing jointly, they may have to pay taxes on some of their Social Security benefits.

Taxpayers can also choose to include all of their Social Security benefits in taxable income regardless of their combined income level. This may be beneficial for taxpayers who owe more in taxes than they would based off the 85% threshold and are not eligible for any tax credits. It’s important to note that this decision must be made each year when filing taxes; taxpayers are unable to make it a permanent decision.

When calculating how much of your Social Security benefit is taxable it’s important to consider your other sources of retirement income such as pensions, annuities, and IRA withdrawals. These can also factor into your combined income and increase the amount you owe in taxes on your Social Security benefits. It’s wise to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor when weighing whether or not it would be beneficial to include all of your Social Security benefit in taxable income each year.

Receiving Benefit Payments

Once you’ve submitted your application for Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review it and determine if you’re eligible to receive payments. If you are deemed eligible, you’ll typically receive your first payment within 60 days after the date of filing.

The SSA offers three different ways to receive your benefit payments: direct deposit into a bank account, the Direct Express Debit MasterCard debit card, or by paper check through the mail. Direct deposit is the most common option, as it’s secure and convenient. You can also have your benefit payments electronically deposited into more than one account. This can be helpful if you’d like to set up separate accounts for different expenses.

When choosing how to receive your benefits, keep in mind that there may be additional fees associated with certain methods of payment. For instance, there’s a fee for using the Direct Express Debit MasterCard debit card. Therefore, it’s important to carefully review all of the options available before making a decision on which payment method is right for you.


In conclusion, it’s important to understand all aspects of social security benefits to ensure you get the maximum benefit amount. Knowing who is eligible and how to apply is critical in order to receive these benefits. It’s also essential to understand the types of benefits available, when to start collecting, as well as tax implications and payment methods. All of this information will help you make the best decisions for your retirement planning.

It’s my hope that this article has provided you with a better understanding of social security benefits and what they can do for you. Remember, if you have any questions, it’s best to contact a qualified financial advisor or the Social Security Administration directly for more detailed information.

Social security benefits are an important part of retirement planning and can provide significant financial support during retirement years. Whether you’re looking into applying now or in the future, being informed about your options is key to getting the most out of your social security benefits.