Answers to Common Social Security Benefits Questions

mother helping elderly mother on cellphone
Social security is the backbone of retirement for many Americans, but the system can be overwhelming at first. Understanding how social security works can help you navigate it and make the best of your retirement. Below are some of the most common questions account owners and their families ask about social security benefits.

Social security benefits questions

  • What are social security benefits?

    Social security benefits serve as partial income replacement for retired individuals. Citizens pay a social security tax from their wages, which serves as a payment for social security as retirement insurance. When you reach age 62, you can begin withdrawing your benefits from social security. 

  • How do you apply for social security benefits?

    You can apply online through the government's Social Security website, make an appointment to speak with an agent in person, or contact them by phone. 

  • How do I find out my social security benefit amount?

    The government maintains an online estimator that can show most citizens how to calculate their social security benefits before retiring. For individuals already receiving social security, the benefit amount will be displayed in each deposit and within the account.

Get your estimate in seconds
Answer a few questions to get an instant, personalized quote.
  • What is the minimum social security benefit?

    The minimum amount depends on how many years of coverage you have. To qualify for a year of coverage, you must earn enough wages to owe social security tax. In essence, you buy coverage through these taxes. In 2022, 11 years of coverage has a minimum monthly payment of $45.50. At the other extreme, 30 years of coverage has a minimum payment of $950.80.

  • Are social security benefits taxable?

    Social security is subject to federal income tax when the proceeds are over $25,000 in a year. Amounts from $25,000 to $34,000 will see an income tax on half of the income. Having a yearly income from social security above $34,000 means 85% of the income is subject to federal income tax.

  • What is the maximum social security benefit?

    The maximum amount varies by year and age. For 2022, the maximum monthly amounts are as follows, by age: $2,364 at 62, $3,345 at just over 66, $4,194 at 70.

  • Who is entitled to social security death benefits?

    This specialized benefit is restricted to the widow or widower of the beneficiary or their children. Unless they have a disability, the widow(er) must be at least 60 to receive this benefit.

  • What percentage of social security benefits does a widow receive?

    If the widow is 62 or older, they'll receive the total annual amount. Between ages 60 and 62, they may earn between 71% and 99% of the total yearly amount. 

  • When does social security recalculate benefits?

    Every year the records are reviewed for all beneficiaries who earned a wage the previous year. If the last year was among your highest-earning years, the social security administration would recalculate your benefits.

  • Do social security benefits start the month of your birthday?

    Benefits begin the month after your 66th birthday if you haven't already started receiving social security benefits.

  • What happens to unused social security benefits?

    Unused social security benefits are folded back into the social security trust fund, supporting the program.

  • What income reduces social security benefits?

    If you're below age 66 (full retirement age), then earning more than the annual limit in wages will see your social security benefit reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over the annual limit. For 2022, the limit is $19,560.

  • What does a social security check look like?

    Although exceptions may be made, social security is no longer paid out through paper checks. The primary way of receiving social security is through direct deposit into a banking account or a direct express debit card.

  • Does working after full retirement age increase social security benefits?

    If you've reached full retirement age (66 at the time of writing), your social security benefits won't decrease due to earning a wage. 

How life insurance can add to retirement

While there are many types of life insurance policies, a particular group serves as an investment vehicle on top of its traditional purpose. These policies, known as permanent life insurance policies, still provide a death benefit and include a cash-value feature. Whole life policies are a type of permanent life insurance that include guaranteed growth on their cash-value features and fixed premiums for the duration of the policy. Some people use these policies to augment retirement plans that have reached their annual contribution limits. 

Get a free quote online and see if a whole life policy is right for you.

The information and content provided herein is for informational purposes only, and it is not to be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs.

Get your estimate in seconds.

Nicotine Use?
Adjust the coverage amount and term length to find a plan you like. Then apply online (with no obligations) and get your real rate.

The estimated monthly rate for this policy is:

Coverage amount
Term length
10 years
Please note that all prices quoted are subject to change, including due to underwriting.