In America, Social Security benefits help many citizens at some point in their life. Social security is available for disabled workers, elderly citizens, and families that had a parent or spouse die. In 2017, Roughly 173 million individuals worked and paid taxes for social security, and approximately 62 million individuals were eligible for monthly benefits.

Social security benefits depend on several factors to determine how much you are eligible to receive every month.

Factor #1: The Length of Time That You Paid Social Security Taxes Through Work

Each year that you spent working adds to how long you contributed to social security.  The system for social security records earnings for every individual for each year that they work. Benefits are lower than they would be for people who have not been continuously employed because of unemployment, illness, or for those who did work but haven’t paid social security taxes.

Factor #2:  Lifetime Earnings Determine Benefit Amount

To be eligible to receive social security benefits, a person pays into social security and must earn 40 credits after working for 10 years. Lifetime earnings determine the amount of monthly benefit they can receive. Social security earnings are determined by the 35 years in which earnings were the highest. Higher earnings mean that monthly benefits are also higher.

Factor #3: When Benefits Are Received

If you decide to begin receiving benefits before you have reached the full retirement age, you will receive less throughout the remainder of your lifetime. However, you could be eligible for your full benefit amount if you continue to work until your full retirement age, begin to receive benefits, and then remain working.

Additional Impacts to Keep in Mind

Be sure to take into consideration how the following circumstances can affect your social security benefits.

Marital Status

Does marriage affect social security? In short, yes. Individuals who are married or divorced will have to make other considerations about when to begin receiving benefits. Married couples can begin to receive benefits early, but only for the spouse who earned less. This would delay the benefits from the higher earning spouse until they have reached full retirement age. Those who were married for at least 10 years and divorced without remarrying can postpone their benefits and receive half of the entire benefit from the former spouse. Seek advice if you have any questions about how to get a divorce and how it affects your social security


Health issues that cause serious illnesses in the family are one reason why people to have to receive benefits earlier than retirement age. Other people might know ahead of time that they have a long life expectancy due to a positive health outlook. This means that retirement might be a longer period of time that you’ll need to plan for. Having a good idea of your life expectancy can help you decide when is a good time for you to take the benefits when you could use them the most.

Tax Liability

A maximum of 85% of social security benefits is taxable income, and roughly 40% of those who receive benefits every month must pay taxes on that amount.