Understanding Social Security Retirement Benefits

When it comes to Social Security retirement benefits, your decision shouldn’t be based on one-size-fits-all assumptions. Your age, marital status, health, and financial needs are all important considerations. If you’re getting ready for retirement, it’s important to know how Social Security benefits work and what you can do to make the most of it.


Social Security eligibility  |  Filing for benefits  |  Social Security filing strategies

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How do Social Security benefits work?

Your retirement could last 25 years or more. That means your Social Security benefits may play a big part in what could be a long retirement. In this video, you’ll learn how the long-term benefits of Social Security are affected by when you file for benefits.

Social Security Eligibility
Social Security eligibility
Eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits is determined by the Social Security credits you have accumulated over your working life and by your age when you file for benefits.
How do Social Security credits work?
During your working years, you earn credits toward Social Security retirement benefits. The number of credits required to receive Social Security retirement benefits depends on when you were born. Anyone born in 1929 or later must have 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify.1
Graphic explaining how a person can earn social security from the beginning of a career to retirement
1 Social Security Administration, "Benefits Planner: Social Security Credits" www.ssa.gov/planners/credits.html
Filing for Benefits
Know your full retirement age

Before you begin receiving benefits, it’s important to understand how Social Security benefits work and the filing options that may be available to you.

Taking benefits early can have an impact on you, your spouse, and on survivors benefits later in life. It can mean leaving money on the table in the form of a reduced monthly benefit — a reduction that is permanent.

Check out the full retirement age chart to see when you’re entitled to receive full Social Security retirement benefits.

A chart explaining the retirement age based on year of birth
2 Social Security Administration, “Benefits Planner: Retirement | Full Retirement Age,” www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html
Social Security Filing Strategies
Before you file for Social Security
A woman scrolling through her phone smiling

Before you file, one of the most important steps you can take is to set up your my Social Security account with the Social Security Administration. This is an easy and secure way to view your estimated benefits and earnings history. The Social Security Administration will use this information when it calculates your benefit, so be sure that it accurately reflects your work history.

Once you’ve set up your my Social Security account, a financial professional can help you explore different filing strategies.

Social Security filing strategies
Man and a woman embracing and looking at each other smiling
If you’re wondering how does Social Security work when you retire, rest assured you’re not alone. We can help you assess different filing strategies based on your marital status and your overall retirement income needs.
How much will you receive?
The Social Security Administration calculates your benefit amount based on a variety of factors. Generally, the most important variables are your claiming age, earning history, and marital status.
Social Security Planning
It pays to plan ahead
Even if you cannot use certain filing strategies, Social Security planning is still important. Depending on your particular situation, waiting even one or two years could result in a larger monthly benefit.
We’re here to help
Take the guesswork out of your Social Security filing decisions and consider making an appointment to discuss your options. When you’re ready, a financial professional can help you make an informed decision.