The minimum Social Security benefit calculation was developed to help certain low-income workers boost their benefit amount. In this post, we are going to explain in detail what the special minimum Social Security benefits are about and provide a chart of the 2022 minimum amounts. Find out how much you will get after 11 years of work and compare it to the minimum amount after 40 credits.
Table of Contents:
- How Social Security benefits are calculated
- What Is the Minimum Social Security Benefit?
- What is the Average Social Security Benefit?
How Social Security benefits are calculated
For most people, Social Security benefits are calculated based on lifetime earnings.
In order to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, you’ll need to earn a total of 40 “credits” over the course of your working lifetime.
Once you have enough credits, Social Security uses your highest 35 years of earnings, indexed to a national average wage index, to calculate your primary insurance amount (PIA).
This number represents the amount you’d receive each month from Social Security once you reach full retirement age, which is dependent on the year you were born.
The full retirement age for people born after 1960 is 67 years old, as of 2022, though for people born before 1960 it may be 66.
If you have fewer than 35 years of earnings, each year with no earnings will be entered as zero.
You can increase your Social Security benefit at any time by replacing a zero or low-income year with a higher-income year.
Additionally, you have to earn at least 40 Social Security credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. Workers can earn up to four credits per year.
These credits are earned as you work and pay Social Security taxes from your income. That includes income from working for an employer or money made through self-employment.
For 2022, you can earn one Social Security or Medicare credit for every $1,510 in covered earnings.
So to get the maximum four credits allowed you’d need to earn at least $6,040.
What Is the Minimum Social Security Benefit?
The special minimum Social Security benefit is a minimum PIA that was created in 1972 to provide benefits to certain low-income workers.
Specifically, the special minimum benefit is designed for people who have lower lifetime earnings overall.
These benefits are calculated based on years of service, not earnings.
The goal is to offer a higher number to certain low-income participants than the traditional benefit formula would produce, resulting in bigger monthly checks.
Low-income workers must have at least 11 years of coverage to qualify.
A year of coverage is any year in which a worker paid in a significant amount to the Social Security Trust Fund.
To get the full special minimum PIA, workers must have at least 30 years of coverage.
Here’s the table of Special Minimum Benefits based on years of working as of July 2022:
That minimum gets changed every year based on inflation.
years of coverage
As you can see from the table above, for 2022, the primary insurance amount for people receiving the Social Security special minimum benefit ranges from $45.50 for someone with 11 years of coverage to $950.80 for workers with 30 years of coverage.
The maximum corresponding family benefit ranges from $69.40 to $1,427.90.
What is the Average Social Security Benefit?
The average Social Security retirement benefit in May 2022 was $1,668 a month.
The maximum benefit, which is the most an individual retiree can get is $3,345 a month for someone who files for Social Security in 2022 at full retirement age.
Full Retirement Age (FRA) is the age at which you qualify for 100 percent of the benefit calculated from your earnings history.
The FRA is 66 and 4 months for people born in 1956 and is gradually rising to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.
If you start collecting Social Security at age 62, you will receive a lower amount, compared to what you would have received at your FRA in 2022.
Minimum Social Security Benefit Summary
Here’s the bottom line:
Social Security’s special minimum benefit is an alternative benefit formula that increases benefits paid to
workers who had low earnings for many years, and to their dependents and survivors.
The special minimum benefit is based on the number of years a person has worked with earnings at or
above a certain threshold.
The regular Social Security benefit formula is based on a worker’s average lifetime earnings.
If you still have questions, you should leave a comment below.
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It’s a very active group with some really smart people who love to answer any questions you may have about Social Security Benefits.
Also, from time to time, our team of editors drop in to contribute and answer questions.
Finally, be sure to check out our other articles about Social Security and Disability Benefits, including: