Social Security Q & A

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Social Security provides benefits to almost 65 million people, and those monthly payments have an enormous impact on older Americans’ financial wellbeing.

Because Social Security is so important to the financial security of millions of current and future Americans, there are bound to be questions that need to be answered.

So let’s go through a few common ones:

#1 - Is Social Security just for retired people? NO, Not at all.

Currently, 71 percent of beneficiaries are retirees. The remainder are disabled workers, dependents and survivors of retirees.

#2 - At what age can I start collecting Social Security benefits?

You can begin receiving retirement benefits at age 62, but your payments will be greater if you wait until your full retirement age (currently 66, and gradually rising over the next several years, to 67).

If you are eligible for disability or survivor benefits, you can start collecting earlier.

#3 - How do I sign up for Social Security?

You can apply for your benefits online at, by phone at 800-772-1213, or in a local office. Check first to make sure your local office has reopened.

4 - How long do I need to work to become eligible for benefits?

For retirement benefits, at least 10 years.

Social Security uses a system of credits, which you collect by working and paying Social Security taxes. You can earn up to four credits a year, and you need 40 credits to qualify for retirement benefits. The credit threshold may be lower for disability benefits.

5 - Must I stop working to collect retirement benefits? The answer is NO.

You can receive benefits while working. But if you are below full retirement age and earn more than a certain amount, your monthly benefits will be temporarily reduced. Once you reach full retirement age, the reduction is eliminated, and your benefits will be increased to make up for what was lost over time.

6 - How much will I get from Social Security?

Important question, but that depends on a number of factors, most crucially, your lifetime earnings from work in which you paid Social Security taxes.

7 - What's the maximum monthly Social Security benefit?

For a worker retiring in 2020 at the full retirement age of 66, the highest monthly amount is $3,011. That’s about double what the average retiree receives.

8 - How can I boost the amount of my benefit?

The key is the longer you wait to start collecting after you become eligible, the more you will receive.

9 - Can I receive Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse's earnings?

You may be able to claim a divorced-spouse benefit if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, you are at least 62 years old and you have not remarried. If so, you could get up to 50 percent of your former spouse's full benefit amount — but only if that exceeds your own retirement benefit. Social Security will pay the higher of the two amounts, not both. So check with Social Security on this important issue.

10 - When someone dies, how does Social Security know?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) receives reports of beneficiaries’ deaths from family members, funeral homes and government agencies.

For more specific information about social security benefits, visit

There, you can create your own personal “my Social Security account” and receive personalized estimates of future benefits based on your real earnings, see your latest Statement, and review your earnings history. You can even request a replacement Social Security Card or check the status of an application.

If you already get benefits from Social Security, you'll get Medicare Part A and Part B automatically when you're first eligible and there’s no need to sign up.

If there are any questions I can answer for you regarding your social security or Medicare, feel free to call me at 404-335-8798.

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