Retirement Insurance Benefits

 Depends on your work and earnings history.  Review the factors that may affect your Retirement Benefits. The maximum benefit is $2,642 per month at normal retirement age in 2015.

  • You must be 62 years old for early retirement at reduced benefits. The age to receive full benefits is changing. It will depend on when you were born.  Near retirement?  Check with Social Security about your options.
  • You must be also "fully insured". Your insured status is determined by your work and earnings history. Generally this means that you worked 10 years in jobs covered by Social Security.
Income Eligibility:
  • If you are under 65, you can earn up to $15,480 per year (as of 2015) without any effect on your benefit amount, however, your benefit is reduced if you earn above the limit.
  • If you retire at full retirement in 2011, you can earn $38,880 per year without your benefits being reduced.

See the earnings limit calculator.

Many figures used to calculate Social Security Retirement benefits are revised annually by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the federal agency that administers the program. These figures are usually updated in October and can be found in the November issue of the Federal Register, the official government source for administrative changes. Note: the press office of the Social Security Administration issues annual updates on the Social Security cost-of-living increases. The figures are reliable and are updated each year after October 1st, based on an examination of changes in the Consumer Price Index since the previous year.

You can also find the figures on the SSA website, or by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or TTY at 1-800-325-0778 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.  (See also

Asset Eligibility:

You can have any type of assets of any value without any effect on your benefits.  However pensions based on work that was not covered by Social Security may reduce your benefit. See "The Windfall Elimination Provision."

Apply at:

Social Security office online  or over the phone or locate the local Social Security office by your zip code.

  • You can appeal any denial, termination, or reduction of benefits
  • You must file an appeal within 60 days of the date of the written notice with which you disagree.
  • In addition, you have a 5 day "grace period" to allow for the mailing of the notice to you, making the total amount of time you have to file an appeal 60+5 days.

Most appeals must be filed electronically or, if you do not have access to a computer, then you should go to the closest local office.

For an explanation on how to appeal a decision by SSA, see Appeals Process Fact Sheet

Source of Funds:

Social Security Trust Fund


Sources of Law:

Federal Law: 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 to 434, specifically, § 402. Old-age and survivors insurance benefit payments

Federal Regulations: Generally, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1 to 404.2127.

The law and regulations are long and complicated, so it is hard to get a quick overview or to find any specific topic. The best way to get quick, clear information is The Social Security Handbook.  The most important information about retirement benefits is Chapter 3.

Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – © Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, 2019.”