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Social Security Questions and Answers

Question: I'm retired and the only income I have is a monthly withdrawal from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Are the IRA withdrawals considered "earnings?" Could they reduce my monthly Social Security benefits?

Answer: 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 pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains, and other government benefits are not counted and will not affect your Social Security benefits. For more information, visit our website at or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: How long does it take to complete the online application for retirement benefits?

Answer: It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. To retire online, go to

Question: My spouse doesn't have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. Can they qualify on my record?

Answer: A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker's full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age. If the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age, the amount of the spouse's benefit is reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before he or she reaches full retirement age. You can learn more by reading our online publication, Retirement Benefits, available at

Question: How long do I need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

Answer: Everyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. You can earn up to four credits per year, so you will need at least 10 years of work to become eligible for retirement benefits. During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your Social Security record. You earn credits based on those earnings. If you become disabled or die before age 62, the number of credits needed to qualify for Social Security benefits depends on your age at the time you die or become disabled. A minimum of six credits is required to qualify for Social Security benefits regardless of your age. You can create a my Social Security account to check and periodically monitor how many credits you have. Just go to

Question: What type of information will I need to provide if I’d like to apply online for Social Security retirement benefits?

Answer: Whether you apply for retirement benefits online, by phone, or in an office, we suggest that you have the following information at hand when you do it. This will make completing the application easier for you.

· Your birthdate, place of birth and Social Security number;

· Your bank account number and your bank's routing number, for direct deposit;

· The amount of money you earned last year and this year. If you are applying for benefits in the months of September through December, you may also need to provide an estimate of what you expect to earn next year if you plan to continue working;

· The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;

· The beginning and ending dates of any active military service you had prior to 1968; and

· The name, Social Security number and date of birth of your current and any former spouses.

Depending on your situation, you may need to provide additional documentation with your application. We’ll give you instructions on how to mail or bring it to us. To get started, visit our Retirement Planner at:

Question: I’ve heard you can apply online for retirement benefits. But isn’t it easier just to go into an office?

Answer: Retiring online is the easier way to go. There’s no need to fight traffic to travel to a local Social Security office and wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. Just visit Once you submit your electronic application, you’re done. In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to mail. Join the millions of people who already retired online. Visit


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