Personal Financial Planning Oversight
May 07

Social Security benefits

Ever wonder about when social security benefits start? Here is your list:


Age 50. Benefits start for a disabled surviving spouse.


Age 60. Benefits start for a nondisabled surviving spouse.


Age 62. Benefits start based on the employee’s, spouse’s or former spouse’s earnings (if the former spouse is still alive).


Full Retirement age reached in 2009. Employees born in 1937 or earlier receive full benefits at age 65. There is no limit on earnings and no reduction in benefits for those at FR age.


Full Retirement age reached before 2009. Employees born in 1940 or earlier receive full benefits at age 65. There is no limit on earnings and no reduction in benefits.


Full Retirement age reached after 2009.  Recipients can earn $14,160 in 2009 before losing $1 in benefits for each $2 earned.


Important: Just earning 40 credits (formerly “quarters of coverage”) does not make individuals eligible for the maximum Social Security benefit. It simply makes them eligible for retirement benefits at a certain age. Credits are unrelated to the amount of the benefits.


Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over 35 years of work—not just on the last 5 years, as many people think. An adjustment is made to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. SSA then calculates average monthly adjusted earnings over the 35 years when the worker earned the most money. 

Employees can obtain their Social Security earnings by calling 800-772-1213, by visiting an SSA office, or by visiting


Reminder: Withhold Social Security taxes on all wages regardless of age or Social Security benefits status.


About Reed Tinsley, CPA

As a top advisor to physicians, I help increase practice profits by delivering hands-on, expert medical accounting/tax support, practice counsel, and revenue-building strategies. Read more →