Social Security is as American as baseball and apple pie. Not everyone likes apples or baseball games, but almost every American who reaches retirement age will receive Social Security retirement benefits. In fact, 96 percent of Americans are covered by Social Security.
If you’re ready to retire in the near future, this article is for you. We’d like to share with you a few important items about Social Security retirement benefits and how to apply for them.
To qualify for retirement benefits, 10 years is normally the minimum. However, the amount of your benefit is determined by how long you work and how much you earn. Higher lifetime Social Security taxable earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years when you did not work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily or earned more.
If you haven’t worked in the United States for the required 10 years, don’t despair. Social Security has bilateral agreements with several countries and if you have worked in any of these countries it is possible that you can qualify for Social Security benefits. Check out the list of countries: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10180.html.
Also, your age when you retire makes a difference in your benefit amount. The full retirement age (the age at which full retirement benefits are payable) has been gradually rising from age 65 to age 67. You can retire as early as age 62, but if benefits start before you reach your full retirement age, your monthly payment is reduced. Find out what your full retirement age is by referring to the convenient chart in our publication, Retirement Benefits, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html. It’s in the second section.
Just as you can choose an early retirement and get a reduced payment, you also can choose to keep working beyond your full retirement age to take advantage of a larger payment. Your benefit will increase automatically by a certain percentage from the time you reach your full retirement age until you start receiving your benefits or until you reach age 70.
The decision of when to retire is an individual one and depends on a number of personal factors. To help you weigh the factors, we suggest you read our online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html
You may want to consider your options by using our Retirement Estimator to get instant, personalized estimates of future benefits. You can plug in different retirement ages and scenarios to help you make a more informed retirement decision. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator
You can visit our Federal Benefits Unit local website athttp://london.usembassy.gov/cons_new/acs/fbu/index.html to find out how to contact us to file an application for benefits or email us at FBU.London@ssa.gov if you have questions not answered at our website.