Empower yourself with our plain-English information
Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area
The amount of benefits to which you are entitled under any Social Security program is not related to financial need (except for SSI -- Supplemental Security Income), but is based on the income you have earned through years of working, through jobs and self-employment. Social Security keeps a record of these earnings over your working lifetime and pays benefits based on the average amount earned.
Your Social Security retirement benefits will vary depending on whether you claim them before or after your full retirement age (65-67, depending on the year you were born -- see "When can I start collecting Social Security benefits?"). The longer you wait to start receiving payments, the higher your benefit amount will be. However, it's not always better to wait until your full retirement age to claim your Social Security benefits. For information on estimating your benefits, see Nolo's article Social Security: Checking Your Earnings and Benefits.