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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
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Go online for retirement help

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What can Social Security do to help me plan for retirement?

Social Security provides great financial planning tools that can help you make informed decisions. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov and open a “my Social Security” account to access your online Social Security Statement. The Statement lists your earnings and the Social Security taxes you paid over the years. It also estimates the Social Security benefits you (and dependent family members) may be eligible to receive. The Statement can help you plan for your financial future.

Also, use Social Security's online retirement planner and our online Retirement Estimator. These will give you estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits. They also provide important information on factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings and federal employment. You can access our retirement planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. Find the estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?

Social Security administers two major programs that pay disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments are based on your work and earnings, and SSI disability payments are based on financial need. Both disability programs require that you have a severe medical impairment or combination of impairments that prevents you from working for at least a year or is expected to result in death.

Social Security taxes are paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons. These taxes fund disability benefits under SSDI. To be eligible for a Social Security benefit, you must earn enough credits to be insured. We pay disability benefits to blind or disabled workers, widow(er)s, or adults disabled since childhood who are otherwise eligible. We base monthly disability benefits on the Social Security earnings record of the insured worker.

SSI is a program financed through general revenues, not Social Security taxes. We pay SSI disability benefits to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible. For information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

How long must I work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

Most people need 40 Social Security “credits” to be eligible. You can earn up to four credits per year. In most cases, you need at least 10 years to be eligible for retirement. During your working years, you earn credits based on earnings. The amount of earnings needed to earn one credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2012 and 2013, you receive one credit for each $1,160 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year.

If you become disabled or die before age 62, the number of credits you need depends on your age at the time you become disabled or die. You must have a minimum of six credits, regardless of your age. Retire online at www.socialsecurity.gov.


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.

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