By Annaliza Gil
Social Security Operations Supervisor in North Las Vegas Nevada
On Labor Day, many Americans enjoy a long weekend to commemorate the hard work they do the rest of the year, as well as those who support working people. With barbecues and ballgames, beach trips and fireworks, this annual holiday often marks the unofficial end of summer. Established in 1882, Labor Day has become a timeless American tradition that many look forward to all summer.
Labor Day also reminds us that all our hard work is paying off in more ways than one — including paying into a retirement fund that makes you eligible to collect monthly benefits after you reach retirement age. If you work 10 years, and receive four credits each year for a total of 40 credits, you’ll enjoy the security of Social Security retirement benefits. Remember, those years don’t have to be consecutive. You can check your Social Security Statement and make sure you have enough credits by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Credits are the building blocks we use to find out if you have the minimum amount of covered work to qualify for each type of Social Security benefit. If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, your credits will stay on your record. If you return to work later on, those credits will be added so that you can qualify. We pay benefits to anyone who has enough credits.
When a worker files for retirement benefits, the worker’s spouse may be eligible for a benefit based on the worker’s earnings. Another requirement is that the spouse must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child in her or his care. By a qualifying child, we mean a child who is under age 16, or who is eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.
The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the worker’s full retirement benefit, depending on the spouse’s age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before “normal” (or “full”) retirement age, the spouse will receive a reduced benefit. However, if a spouse is caring for a qualifying child, we don’t reduce the spousal benefit. If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then we pay the retirement benefit based on the worker’s own record. Otherwise, we pay the spousal benefit. In other words, we pay the higher of the two benefit amounts.
The best way to see what those benefits might be is to visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. The Estimator uses your actual earnings history to compute a benefit estimate.
In the past, applying for benefits could be laborious, requiring you to drive to a Social Security office, wait, and fill out paperwork. Now, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline to find out everything you need to know about applying online for retirement benefits. And, when you’re ready, you can securely file the application online in as little as 15 minutes.
In most cases, after you submit your online application electronically, that’s it. There are no additional forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases, we’ll need additional information, and a representative will contact you.
Labor Day might mean something a little different once you’re retired, but that’s a pretty fair trade off when you’re no longer laboring. Spend a few moments considering what your hard work has earned in the form of Social Security protection for you, your family, and working people everywhere.
Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov.