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Who is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits?

You start down the road to eligibility by working and paying Social Security taxes, either through payroll deductions (required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA) or through income tax filings if you are self-employed (required by the Self-Employed Contributions Act, or SECA).

You qualify for Social Security by compiling credits when you pay Social Security taxes on your earnings. You can earn up to four credits per year. Workers qualify for Social Security retirement benefits when they reach 40 lifetime credits.

In 2022, $1,510 in income from “covered” employment — work in which you paid Social Security taxes — equals one work credit. You can reach your four-credit maximum by earning at least $6,040 for the year. The credit amounts are adjusted annually for inflation.

You become eligible to collect Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. You can check on your eligibility, earnings history and estimated future benefits on the Social Security statement at your online My Social Security account.

Keep in mind

How Does Social Security Work?

Updated March 7, 2022