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Recently I have been reading many articles about the insolvency of Social Security and how not to factor it in any retirement income.

My questions are:

  1. How many years does someone need to pay into it before being eligible to get benefits in retirement? Can someone who hasn't paid much into Social Security still be eligible?
  2. Are contributions taken into account when distributions are made or is age the only defining criteria?
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

According to the Social Security Administration, you need to pay into the system for a minimum of ten years. Technically, you need to earn 40 "credits" based on your contributions for a year, and one can earn a maximum of 4 credits a year.

Benefits are calculated according to a somewhat complex formula based more on average earnings (and thus contributions) than on years of paying in to the system. A worksheet is available at to compute your monthly payment.

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