When am I eligible for Social Security Benefits

How to become eligible for Social Security benefits

To qualify for retirement benefits you must have paid into Social Security tax while you were working and earned “credits” toward benefits. The number of credits you need to be eligible for social security benefits depends on the year that you are born.  If your birth year is 1929 or later, you must have 40 credits, the equivalent of 10 years of work. Social security benefits can not be paid until the required amount of credits is obtained.

Determining how much Social Security you will receive

When to apply to social security

The Social Security payment that you will receive is based on the amount you earned during your working career. The more money you earned the higher your benefit. Other factors such as the age at which you start pulling from your Social Security also affect the payment amount.

Create a mySocialSecurity account to look at your Social Security statement.

When you are eligible for Social Security Benefits 

The full retirement age varies (see figure below). If you have a retirement age of 66 then you would be able to start drawing on your social security with a 25% penalty at age 62. In addition, if you choose to delay collecting each year, up to age 70, your benefits are increased by 8%.

If you were born in … Your full retirement age is …
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67

Factors to consider

When deciding if you want to take money from your Social Security, there are many factors to consider. Taking money out too soon could mean settling for lower monthly payments.

Eligible for social security benefits
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1. Your instant cash needs. If you are financially sound without the help of social security then it is better to leave your social security and gain 8% interest per year until you have to start taking it. If you are just making ends meet with the help of a social security check, postponing retirement till you meet your full requirement age, is a better option.

2. Your life expectancy and break even age.  If you take your social security before your full time retirement age, you will be receiving a lower payment each month for a longer period of time. The alternative is taking social security later and receiving fewer larger checks.

Calculate your break even age to plan when the best time to apply for your benefits in order to optimize your benefits.

Monthly Social Security benefits Retirement age Break-even age
$1,992 62 vs. 66 Between 77 and 78
$2,676 62 vs. 70 Between 80 and 81
$3,557 66 vs. 70 Between 83 and 84

Manage or Change Social Security Benefits

Changing your Social Security Benefits

If you have made a decision to change the way your Social Security benefits have been set up you may be able to withdraw your Social Security claim and re-apply later.

If it has been 12 months or more after you became entitled to your retirement benefits, you can no longer withdraw your application.

Withdrawing your application

When withdrawing an application here is what you would need to know:

  • You must repay all the benefits you and your family received based on your retirement application. Benefits anyone, including spouse or children received based on your application will be repaid. Anyone who received benefits must write consent with the withdraw.
  • Money withheld from your checks from Medicare part B, part C, and part D premiums, Voluntary tax withholding for all years, and garnishments must be repaid.

How to withdraw your application

  1. Fill out Social Security Form SSA-521 and include the reason why you want to withdraw the application on the form.
  2. Send the completed form to the Social Security Administration and you will be notified on the amount that you need to repay.
How to manage your Social Security benefits online

Change your social security benefits

By using mySocialSecurity you get access to


Top 12 Questions About Social Security Benefits Answered

We get tons of questions about Social Security Benefits, SSI, disability, death and spousal benefits, how to apply, getting benefits at age 62 and more. We have picked the top 12 issues people have questions about and have answered them below. Scroll down below to see our list.

12 Questions About Social Security