Money Talks Social Security

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Qualifying Quarter

To be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, a worker born after 1928 must have accumulated at least 40 quarters of work in "covered employment". A "quarter of coverage" generally means the three-month calendar quarter. In addition, you must earn at least $1,320 in a quarter (in 2019) for it to count.


For the year 2019, this limit on earned income is $17,640 ($1,470 per month). The amount goes up each year. If you are collecting Social Security retirement benefits before full retirement age, your benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over the limit.

Early Retirement

a benefit is reduced 5/9 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of one percent per month.

Full Retirement Age

Currently, the full benefit age is 66 years and 2 months for people born in 1955, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Early retirement benefits will continue to be available at age 62, but they will be reduced more

Delayed Retirement Age

Social Security retirement benefits are increased by a certain percentage (depending on date of birth) if you delay your retirement beyond full retirement age. The benefit increase no longer applies when you reach age 70, even if you continue to delay taking benefits.

Social Security Benefits Example

retirement benefits, disability benefits, or just Medicare

Delayed Retirement Credit

Earnings History

personalized estimates of future benefits based on your real earnings

Social Security Benefit Verification Letter/Social Security Award Letter/Benefits Letter

proof of your retirement, disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicare benefits. It also serves as proof that you have applied for benefits or that you have never received Social Security benefits or SSI.

Actuarial Reduction

An actuarial adjustment occurs when the assumptions surrounding the timing or amount of a future benefit payout change. In pension arrangements, actuarial adjustments are made to the retirement benefits when an individual retires before or after normal pension age

Social Security Statement

shows a record of an individual's earnings and an estimate of future benefits

AIME (Average Indexed Monthly Earnings)

The dollar amount used to calculate your Social Security benefit if you attained age 62 or became disabled (or died) after 1978

AME (Average Monthly Earnings)

The dollar amount used in calculating your monthly Social Security benefit if you attained age 62 or became disabled (or died) before 1978.

Appeal (Appeal Rights)

a letter of explanation whenever Social Security makes a decision regarding your eligibility for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Baptismal Certificate

An official religious record of your birth or baptism. In some situations Social Security can use a baptismal certificate to establish your age.

Base Years

a worker's (wage earner's) base years for computing Social Security benefits are the years after 1950 up to the year before entitlement to retirement or disability insurance benefits.


Social Security pays five types of benefits:

Family (dependents)
The retirement, family (dependents), survivor, and disability programs pay monthly cash benefits, and Medicare provides medical coverage.


term "Child" to include your biological child or any other child who can inherit your personal property under state law or who meets certain specific requirements under the Social Security Act

COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment)

Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments may be automatically increased each year to keep pace with increases in the cost-of-living (inflation).

Computation Years

Computation years are the years with highest earnings selected from the base years.” SS will add total earnings in the computation years and divide by the number of months in those years to get the eAME or the AIME. (SS will use your 35 highest years of earnings to compute your retirement benefits.)

CPI-W (Consumer Price Index)

An index prepared by the U. S. Department of Labor that charts the rise in costs for selected goods and services. This index is used to compute cost of living adjustments.

Credits (Social Security Credits)

Previously called "Quarters of Coverage." As you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits that count toward your eligibility for future Social Security benefits. You can earn a maximum of four credits each year. Most people need 40 credits to qualify for benefits. Younger people need fewer credits to qualify for disability or survivors benefits.

Decision Notice (Award Letter or Denial Letter)

n official letter explaining our decision and, if benefits are payable, notice of the amount you will get each month

Family Benefits (Dependent Benefits)

When you’re eligible for retirement or disability benefits, the following people may receive benefits on your record:

spouse if he or she is at least 62 years old (or any age but caring for an entitled child of the deceased spouce under age 16 or disabled);
children if they are unmarried and under age 18, or under age 19 and a full-time elementary or secondary student;
children age 18 or older but disabled before age 22;
ex-spouses age 62 or older.

Disability Benefits

You can get disability benefits if you:

are under full retirement age;
have enough Social Security credits; and
have a severe medical impairment (physical or mental) that’s expected to prevent you from doing "substantial" work for a year or more, or have a condition that is expected to result in death.

Early Retirement

You can start getting Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 if you are insured, but your benefit amount will be less than you would have gotten if you waited until your full retirement age.

If you take retirement benefits early, your benefit will remain permanently reduced, based on the number of months you received benefits before you reached full retirement age.

Early Retirement Age

Age 62

Evidence (Proofs)

The documents you must submit to support a factor of entitlement or payment amount.

Family Maximum

The maximum amount of benefits payable to an entire family on any one worker’s record.


FICA stands for "Federal Insurance Contributions Act." It’s the tax withheld from your salary or self-employment income that funds the Social Security and Medicare programs.

Lawful Alien Status

Refers to people admitted to the United States who are granted permanent authorization to work by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (formerly INS) or admitted to the United States on a temporary basis with USCIS (INS) authorization to work.

Lifetime Earnings “Earnings Record”

A chronological history of the amount of money you earned each year during your working lifetime. The credits you earned remain on your Social Security record even when you change jobs or have no earnings.

Maximum Earnings

The maximum amount of earnings we can count in any calendar year when computing your Social Security benefit.


A joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for people with low incomes and limited resources.

Medicaid programs vary from state to state, but most health care costs are covered if you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Month of Election

This usually applies to retirement claims. In certain situations, you can choose the month in which your benefits will start.

Wage Earner

A person who earns Social Security credits while working for wages or self-employment income. Sometimes referred to as the "Number Holder" or "Worker."

Protective Filing Date

The date you first contact us about filing for benefits. It may be used to establish an earlier application date than when we receive your signed application.

PIA (Primary Insurance Amount)

The monthly amount payable if you are a retired worker who begins receiving benefits at full retirement age or if you're disabled and have never received a retirement benefit reduced for age.

OASDI (Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance)

The Social Security programs that provide monthly cash benefits to workers and their dependents when they retire, die, or become disabled.

Nutrition Assistance Programs

The United States Department of Agriculture program that helps needy families buy food.