Q & A
My neighbor, who is retired, told me that the income he receives from his part-time job at the local nursery gives him an increase in his Social Security benefits. Is that right?
Retirees who return to work after they start receiving benefits may be able to receive a higher benefit based on those earnings. This is because Social Security automatically re-computes the retirement benefit after crediting the additional earnings to the individual’s earnings record. Learn more by reading the publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits.
I plan to retire soon. When are Social Security benefits paid?
Social Security benefits are paid each month. Generally, new retirees receive their benefits on either the second, third, or fourth Wednesday of each month, depending on the day in the month the retiree was born. If you receive benefits as a spouse, your benefit payment date will be determined by your spouse’s birth date.
Your monthly payment date is determined by the date of your birth:
- Born on the 1st-10th, payment made on second Wednesday
- Born on the 11th-20th, payment made on third Wednesday
- Born on the 21st-31st, payment made on the fourth Wednesday
For a calendar showing actual payment dates for 2012, see the Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/calendar.htm.
I'm trying to decide when to retire. Can Social Security help?
The best place to start is with a visit to the online Social Security Statement. The Statement provides you with estimates of benefits for you and your family as well as your earnings record and information you should consider about retirement and retirement planning. Find out more about the Statement — and get yours — at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.
There “right” time to retire is different for everyone and depends on your individual situation. To help you make your own decision, we offer an online fact sheet with some of the factors to consider.
I've decided I want to retire. Now what do I do?
The fastest and easiest way to apply for retirement benefits is to go to www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. Use our online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouses benefits. To do so, you must:
- Be at least 61 years and 9 months old;
- Want to start your benefits in the next four months; and
- Live in the United States or one of its commonwealths or territories.
I’m retired and the only income I have is from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Are my IRA withdrawals considered “earnings”? Could they reduce my monthly Social Security benefits?
No. We count only the wages you earn from a job or your net profit if you’re self-employed. Non-work income such as annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains, and other government benefits are not counted and will not affect your Social Security benefits. Most pensions will not affect your benefits either. However, your benefit may be affected by a government pension from work on which you did not pay Social Security tax. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
How do I earn coverage for Social Security?
You earn Social Security credits, sometimes referred to as quarters of coverage, when you work and pay Social Security taxes. The credits are based on the amount of your earnings. In 2012, you receive one credit for each $1,130 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year, the amount of earnings needed for a credit goes up slightly as average earnings levels increase. Generally, a person needs 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits.
There are special rules for the self-employed. Read more about self-employment and Social Security in our online publication, If You Are Self Employed.
To learn the amount required for Social Security credits for prior years, see Quarter of Coverage at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/QC.html.