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To be eligible for Social Security, you must have “40 credits” of covered work. For most people, this means working for at least 10 years during which they had earnings that were subject to Social Security tax or self-employment tax. You must also be at least 62 years old. In addition, you may qualify for benefits as a spouse, former spouse, or survivor of a covered worker.

What you already know about Social Security

Social Security is available only to those who pay into the program—about 96% of American workers. While you may think that everyone pays into Social Security, some people do not—employees of some railroads and state employees who participate in state pension programs, among others. Social Security offers participants a predetermined, steady, lifetime income based on the amount of money they have put into the program. To a certain extent, it adjusts for inflation and offers survivor’s benefits. You probably know that the longer you delay receiving your Social Security benefits, the more money you will receive each month.