What are minimum Social Security benefits?

1 min readLast updated January 30, 2024by Unbiased team

Find out if you are eligible for the special minimum Social Security benefit for retirement, designed for low-income earners, and how it works.

Summary 

  • The special minimum Social Security benefit is designed to boost retirement income for low-earning citizens. 

  • The benefit is calculated based on years worked rather than income generated. 

  • If you have at least 11 years of coverage and are at least 62 years old, you may be eligible for the special minimum Social Security benefit. 

What is a minimum Social Security benefit? 

There are essentially two different types of Social Security benefits for retirement:  

  • The regular Social Security benefit 

  • The special minimum Social Security benefit.  

In both cases, the benefit you can claim is known as your primary insurance income (PIA) 

The regular Social Security benefit is designed for the average income earner, while the special minimum Social Security benefit is intended for lower-income citizens.  

Each is calculated differently. 

How are Social Security benefits calculated? 

For most of us, Social Security benefits are calculated for retirement based on our lifetime earnings.  

The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates your benefits based on the 35 highest-earning years of your career.  

The special minimum Social Security benefit calculation is based on years of service rather than lifetime earnings.  

A year of service refers to any year in which you contributed a certain minimum amount to Social Security. 

For every year of service (up to a maximum of 30 years), the ultimate PIA for which you qualify increases.  

What is the special minimum Social Security benefit? 

The terms “special minimum Social Security benefit” and “minimum Social Security benefit” are often used interchangeably. This is because they are the same thing. 

The special minimum Social Security benefit is intended for lower-income individuals as a means to afford them a higher PIA than they would otherwise be eligible for.  

As mentioned, it is calculated based on years of service rather than lifetime earnings. 

Who is eligible for the minimum Social Security benefit? 

To be eligible for the special minimum Social Security benefit, you must have at least 11 (and up to 30) years of coverage. You acquire a year of coverage by earning a certain minimum amount of earnings within that year. 

If you are a low-income individual, you can choose between the regular Social Security benefit and the special minimum Social Security benefit.  

Interestingly, low-income workers on the higher end of the spectrum are increasingly opting for the regular PIA. This is because the regular PIA may actually still pay out more than the special minimum PIA, thanks to adjustments not keeping up with the ever-increasing impact of inflation on retirement

What is the minimum Social Security benefit at age 62? 

The youngest age at which you can begin claiming the minimum Social Security benefit is 62.  

In 2024, the special minimum Social Security benefit if you retire at age 62 is around $2,710.00 per month.  

It’s important to note that this depends on your years of coverage and increases the longer you wait to begin claiming. 

How much will I get from Social Security benefits? 

How much you will get from special minimum Social Security depends on two things: 

  1. Your total years of coverage (between 11 and 30) 

  2. The age at which you begin claiming your special minimum PIA 

The special minimum PIA is periodically increased to adjust for the increased cost of living. 

You can determine the PIA that you currently qualify for by consulting the latest PIA table, which is published by the Social Security Administration. 

What if you choose not to retire early? If you are 70 years old (or older) in 2024 and have the maximum 30 coverage years, you are eligible for the highest possible special minimum PIA of $4,873.00 per month. 

Find a financial advisor 

Your Social Security benefits are a vital component of your retirement plan, particularly if you have been a long-term low-income worker. If you plan correctly, you could be eligible for a special minimum Social Security benefit of up to $4,873.00 per month in 2024. 

To expert financial advice for retirement, let Unbiased match you with a financial advisor who understands your unique needs. 

Match with an advisor today.

Writers

Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.