How You Qualify
If you work and pay taxes into Social Security, you may already know that this tax is withheld from your salary.
Social Security taxes are part of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax. This federal payroll (or employment) tax is paid equally by many (but not all) employers and their employees. If you are self-employed, this tax is paid entirely by you. FICA taxes are used to fund Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits is determined by the Social Security retirement credits you have accumulated over your working life and by your “full retirement age”.
Social Security Retirement Credits
During your working years, you earn “credits” toward your Social Security 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
Social Security only pays retirement benefits if you have accumulated the required number of credits. If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, the credits you have earned will remain on your Social Security record. If you return to work later on, you can earn more credits.