How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

During your working years, your wages are posted to your Social Security record, and you receive earnings credits based on those wages. We use these credits to determine your eligibility for retirement benefits and for disability or survivors benefits if you should become disabled or die.

Each year the amount of earnings needed for a credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2000, you receive one credit for each $780 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. The maximum wage contribution for 2000 was increased to $76,200 from $72,200 for 1999. One credit has also increased to $780 from $740 for 1999.

Everyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Therefore since you can earn four credits per year, you will need at least 10 years of work to become eligible for retirement benefits.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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