The amount of Social Security money you're entitled to changes as you stay on the job and contribute more earnings to Social Security over time. The amount you get also varies by your age and other factors. Track Social Security earnings each year using forms provided by the government. Review the forms each year to ensure your earnings are correctly tracked so you get the right amount of money when it's time to retire.
First, determine if you're eligible to receive Social Security payments. To earn this form of income, you need at least 10 years of work experience, which earns you 40 credits, the minimum number of credit you need to qualify. You cannot get benefits until you turn 62, at which point you become eligible to take benefits. Full retirement age, however, is 67, so if you start collecting earlier, you lose some benefits.
Each year, the Social Security Administration mails you a statement, which is updated to reflect the amount of credits you've earned through working and your projected payout from Social Security. These arrive in the mail automatically if you're over 25 years old and tend to come three months before your birthday. If you are younger than 25 or have misplaced your most recent statement, you can request a new form SSA-7004 directly from the Social Security Administration. Wait to calculate your earnings until you have this paperwork.
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Your Social Security Statement shows the money you've paid into Social Security and the payouts you can expect to garner. Read over the statement carefully to find out how much you can expect to make if you retire at different times. As you make more money, you can track your increasing payments via these annual Social Security Statements. Alternately, you can use a Benefit Calculator to determine future earnings if you currently have 40 credits or more (see Resources).
As of 2011, your Social Security payments increase 8 percent for every year past 62 you want to collect. If you begin collecting at 63, you receive 8 percent more than you would at 62; if you wait until you're 64, it's 16 percent. This increase tops out at age 70. If you begin collecting while you are working, you get less money, too; although you can begin collecting while still employed. Every year you work, your estimated earnings change; since you pay into the system each year.