Social Security Life Changes Affecting Social Security Benefits

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  1. Changes in your life can affect the amount of Social Security Benefits you can expect to receive.

    Social Security Benefits Eligibility

    Being eligible for Social Security benefits means meeting three main requirements:
    • You must submit a written application for benefits with your local Social Security office.
    • You must have worked a certain amount of quarters per year (three month periods) to accumulate enough time to be eligible for the benefit. Forty quarters worked are required in order to be fully “insured” or ten years for anyone born after January 2, 1929.
    • You must be at least 62 years of age. When it comes to proving your age, the SSA (Social Security Administration) will outline what they will accept as proof of age.

    Calculating the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)

    If you are a wage earner and meet the three eligibility requirements for Social Security as set out above, you will be entitled to Social Security benefits once you reach the age of sixty five. The amount of money you will receive as Social Security benefits will be based on your Primary Insurance Amount or "PIA." The PIA is the amount you would receive when retirement benefits are paid beginning at the normal retirement age. If you are using the normal retirement age, the amount of Social Security benefits are not reduced for early retirement nor increased for delayed retirement.

    The Primary Insurance Amount represents the sum of three parts of your average “indexed” monthly earnings. The parts depend on the year in which a worker becomes 62 years old, becomes disabled before age 62, or dies before reaching 62 years old. These parts are called “bend points” affecting the amount of benefits received, which results in a three part formula.
    When an individual who becomes eligible to receive Social Security benefits via (i) old-age insurance benefits or disability insurance benefits in 2011, or (ii) who dies in 2011 before becoming eligible for benefits, the PIA will consist of the sum of:
    • 90% of the first $749 of average indexed monthly earnings, plus
    • 32% of average indexed monthly earnings over $749 and through $4,517, plus
    • 15% of average indexed monthly earnings over $4,517.
    More information can be obtained from Social Security Online.

    Life Changes Affecting Social Security Benefits

    Your Social Security benefit amount may change due to certain life events or changes. These life changes are also required to be reported to the SSA (Social Security Administration) as soon as possible and include the following:
    • Name changes

      Name changes, regardless of whether it involves reasons of marriage, will require you to obtain a new Social Security card.
    • Re-marriage

      Doing so after age 60 will frequently have little or no effect on your Social Security or survivors benefits. If you remarry before age 60 you cannot receive survivor’s benefits unless that marriage ends.
    • Divorce

      You may be able to collect Social Security benefits against your former spouse’s Social Security record if you’re at least age 62 and your former spouse is receiving benefits or is entitled to them. The receipt of survivors benefits usually requires a 10 year marriage or more.
    • Birth of a Child

      A child may be eligible for benefits if one of the parents is currently receiving Social Security benefits. In addition, children born with a disability may also be entitled to benefits.
    • Retirement

      The SSA has a specifical web page to help you understand the different factors which might affect your social security benefits as a result of retirement.
    For more information about how life changes can affect your Social Security benefits, you may wish to peruse the SSA website help area.
    Health, Medical & Social:
    Social Security Benefits

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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