Social Security is one of the main pillars of American society. Nearly 67 million Americans per month will receive Social Security benefits in 2023. These benefits make up about 30% of income for elderly folks.

If you’re approaching retirement age and want to start receiving benefits, or you’re caring for someone who is eligible for them, you may have questions about Social Security benefits. Here are the answers to some common questions.

1. When can I start receiving Social Security benefits?

You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as 62 years of age, but that’s not your full retirement age (FRA). Your FRA is 67 if you were born after 1960. And you can max out your Social Security benefits if you wait until you turn 70.

If you choose to start receiving benefits as soon as possible, or when you reach 62 years of age, your benefits will be reduced to a portion of what you’d receive if you were at full retirement age. Delaying Social Security until after you hit full retirement age can qualify you for delayed retirement credits, which can increase your monthly Social Security benefit.

2. How are my Social Security benefits calculated?

Your Social Security benefits are calculated by your lifetime earnings. Your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) is what you earned, on average, for up to 35 years worth of work. Your monthly benefit amount might be more or less than that average, based on what you earned and the national average wage index.

If you’re planning to retire after the normal retirement age, you can expect higher benefits than if you were to retire at 62 years of age.

3. What happens to my Social Security benefits if I continue to work after I start receiving them?

You can get Social Security benefits even if you continue to work. You’ll also continue to pay into Social Security when you get paid. But how much you earn in Social Security benefits depends on how much you’re earning in your job.

If you’re planning to start collecting Social Security before your full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your benefits will be reduced. If you’re under full retirement age for the full year, Social Security cuts $1 from your benefits for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2023, that’s $21,240.

4. Can I receive Social Security benefits if I’m still working?

You can receive Social Security benefits if you’re still working or even if you plan to return to work after you start collecting them. But the amount you receive in benefits will be reduced based on your earned income.

5. What is the maximum Social Security benefit I can receive?

The most you can earn in Social Security depends on when you retire. If you retire in 2023, these are the maximum benefits you can expect to receive:

Age in 2023 Maximum amount received
62 $2,572
Full retirement age $3,627
70 $4,555

6. How do I apply for Social Security benefits?

You can apply for Social Security benefits through the Social Security Administration website. You can apply for yourself or on behalf of someone else. Before you apply, you can also check your eligibility for Social Security benefits.

Social Security benefits aren’t just for retirement. You can apply for benefits when you can’t work because of a disability, you lose a spouse, or you’re having trouble paying for essentials. Checking your eligibility can help you figure out which benefits you qualify for.

Use Bankrate’s Social Security calculator to help estimate your earnings and more.

Bottom line

Social Security benefits are available to those who need them and there’s a chance you might be eligible to receive them. If you’re of age and even if you are still working, you might qualify for Social Security benefits.

But Social Security might not replace all of your income. If you can’t work due to health reasons, you might qualify for other government programs. You can also start tapping into your retirement plans, like an IRA or a 401(k), to cover other costs as you ease into retirement.