Young People

Social Security is important to young workers

Social Security is much more than a retirement program. Although retirement benefits represent 70% of the total payments we make, they are just one of the benefits we provide. Disabled workers and their dependents account for 19% of the total benefits paid while survivors account for 11%.

So how does Social Security protect young workers?

We provide benefits to young workers and their families if they become disabled and have worked in covered employment. This means that if you become disabled before you reach retirement age, we got you and your family covered. In fact:

  • About 90 percent of persons aged 21-64 who worked in covered employment in 2013 can count on monthly cash benefits if they suffer a severe and prolonged disability.

We are also more than just disability benefits. We are the largest provider of survivor benefits to children. This means that in the unfortunate event of your death, your widow or widower and dependent children may qualify for survivors benefits. In fact:

  • About 96 percent of persons aged 20-49 who worked in covered employment in 2013 have acquired survivorship protection for their children under age 18 (and surviving spouses caring for children younger than age 16).

What is covered employment?

Covered employment is any job where you pay Social Security taxes, also known as FICA and OASDI taxes. By paying Social Security taxes, you earn what is called a “quarter of coverage.”  Quarter of coverage is a legal term, but you may also see the term "Social Security credit" or "work credit" being used. A quarter of coverage is the basic unit that we use for determining whether a worker is insured under the Social Security program.

How do I get coverage or insurance under Social Security?

You actually earn Social Security coverage simply by working and earning enough work credits.  The number of credits you earn is based on your total wages and self-employment income during the year. You can earn up to four credits per year.

In 2014, you must earn $1,200 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare work credit and $4,800 to get the maximum four credits for the year.  You can earn the four annual credits regardless of when you did the actual work.  For example, you can work all year to earn the four credits, or you may earn them by working during the summer or a school semester if your job pays enough. 

The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally you need 40 credits. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. Click here to see the specific number of credits you need based on your age. To get retirement benefits however, you need 40 credits (10 years of work).

You can check how many credits you have right now by creating a my Social Security account. Once you create an account, you can access your Social Security Statement and review your earnings record, the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid, and an estimate of your retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.