What Are Social Security Benefits?

Social security benefits come in several shapes and sizes. You may be eligible for certain benefits and not realize it. For example, did you know that a divorcee may be able to receive social security benefits because of an ex-spouse? Here we’ll look at the different types of benefits that are out there and what they entail.


First, to get social security benefits, you have to have earned at least 40 credits. Currently, a credit is $1200, and you can get up to four of them a year. To get four credits in 2014, you have to make at least $4800. To receive benefits, under normal circumstances, you’ll have need to have worked (and paid into the system) for at least 10 years. If you haven’t, you won’t be eligible to receive these benefits.

However, even if you haven’t ever paid into the system, you may be eligible to receive benefits as a child, parent, or spouse of an eligible worker. The number of credits required to receive benefits may also change depending on your specific situation. For example, if you have been disabled, the number of credits you need to be eligible for social security diminishes depending on your age when you were disabled.

Types of Benefits

This is just a general overview of the types of social security benefits that you and your family members may be eligible to receive. If you think that you may be entitled to social security benefits, take a look at the Social Security Administration’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool.

If You’re Retired

You can start receiving social security benefits at 62 years of age, provided you have enough credits. However, your benefits are greatly reduced at this age. Waiting until you are 70 will allow you to receive the maximum benefit.

Spouses and children can also receive benefits if you are retired. In this case of a spouse, he or she must be at least 62 or have a child under the age of 16. They may also receive the benefit if he or she is caring for a disabled child. You can even get benefits as a divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least ten years and you meet one of the two criteria listed previously.

Your children may also be entitled to benefits if they are under the age of 18 or under the age of 19 and in high school. Disabled adults may also qualify if they were disabled before the age of 22.

If You’re Disabled

If you become disabled and you have enough credits, you may be eligible to receive social security benefits. The social security administration also says that before becoming disabled, you need to have been working in covered employment recently.

As a spouse of a disabled worker you can receive benefits if you meet the two criteria listed above for the spouse of a retired worker. Children of disabled workers can also receive benefits if they meet the criteria listed above.

If You’re Deceased

If you die, your children and your spouse may still be eligible to receive social security benefits. Children of a deceased worker must meet the requirements listed above. There are, however, several classes for widows and widowers. An aged widow or widower is at least 60 years old while a young widow or widower must be taking care of a disabled child or one who is younger than 16. If the spouse of a deceased worker is disabled, he or she may receive benefits at age 50. In this case even parents can receive benefits if they were dependent on the deceased child. They must also be at least 62 years old.

While the specifics may be complicated, the concept is fairly simple—pay into the system now and receive the benefits in the future.

What do you think of social security?



  • Thanks for the post, I really never knew much about Social Security benefits. I think the system is flawed because our mindset towards it has changed from when it was first implemented. Also, what will happen when there are more people collecting SS, than people paying into the system?

  • Good guide, it’s always handy to know what benefits you might be entitled to. Thanks Caitlin.

  • […] Brown @ YourFinancesSimplified writes What Are Social Security Benefits? – Social security benefits come in several shapes and sizes. You may be eligible for certain […]

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