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Q
Can I get my Social Security benefits early if I can’t find work?

A

If you are unemployed, you may be tempted to collect any government funds you can in order to pay your bills. If you are over age 62, you may be able to collect your Social Security retirement benefits—but doing so may reduce the amount of your retirement payments later.

The Social Security Administration only allows people to collect the full amount of their retirement funds when they have reached 66 years and 2 months (called Full Retirement Age). At this point, you can collect the maximum amount you have paid into Social Security according to your past earnings record. However, if you choose to receive your benefits early, you will only be able to collect 74 percent of the total amount.

Social Security Options Besides Retirement

If you cannot find work because you have a disability, you may be able to collect a few different forms of government aid. Social Security Disability is available for workers who are expected to be out of a job due to an injury for a year or more, who are returning to work after an injury but are working fewer hours, or for less income than they previously earned.

If you are unable to work and have extremely limited resources, you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). This program is paid through a separate fund from Social Security disability, so you do not have to have held any previous jobs in order to collect benefits.

You may be able to collect SSI if you are:

  • Over age 65
  • Disabled
  • Blind
  • Supporting a blind or disabled child
  • Completely unable to work

If you meet one of these criteria, you may be able to receive a monthly payment from the Social Security office without sacrificing your retirement funds—and you can get these benefits even if you currently receive disability benefits. Fill out the form at the top of this page to find out how many different types of benefits you may be able to receive at once.

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