By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
6 reasons adults of all ages need to be thinking about Social Security
2bbf9e7c2cbe51ff62c9eeddab6738530eff1caa7e877bc4ef330fe8d125b341
A successful retirement takes extensive preparation, yet many people spend more time and effort planning a vacation. Because Social Security plays a critical role for most retirees, it does not make sense to ignore it until the retirement years are at the doorstep. - photo by Flint Stephens
Most people rarely think about Social Security before age 60. That is unfortunate, because many workers need Social Security benefits long before they reach retirement. Also, calculations that determine benefit amounts are based on a persons complete work history, often extending back to part-time jobs in high school or college.

If you think Social Security is something you dont have to worry about until you are ready to retire, here are some reasons you need to focus on your Social Security situation, no matter your current age.

1. You might need income long before you retire

According to data from the Social Security Administration, as many as 33 percent of todays 20-year-olds will become disabled before age 67 and will be eligible for benefits. Currently, 16 percent of total benefits paid out are going to disabled workers and their dependents. Another 10 percent of total Social Security benefits are paid to survivors of deceased workers.

2. Your work today determines future eligibility

While a 30-year-old is still decades away from retirement, it is important for him to make certain he is getting proper credit each year for his Social Security benefits. Kimberly Lankford, columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, writes, Its a good idea to check statements for errors once a year. You can do this by going to the Social Security website and creating a mySocial Security account.

If you discover an error, it is much easier to correct it right away instead of learning about it at retirement and trying to rectify a mistake that could be decades old.

When calculating retirement benefits, the Social Security Administration includes a workers highest 35 years of earnings. To qualify for Social Security benefits, you must earn at least 40 credits. You earn one credit per quarter and up to four credits a year. It takes a minimum of 10 years of work to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. In 2015, you must earn $1,220 to get one Social Security work credit and $4,880 to get the maximum four credits.

3. Many benefits are not age dependent

Early retirement benefit eligibility begins at age 62 if the claimant opts for a reduced payout rate. There are, however, different age scales for disability, spousal and survival benefits. In an article for Forbes, Asher Hawkins wrote, Its actually easier for younger workers to qualify for these benefits than it is for older ones. If you become disabled at age 27, for example, youll qualify for disability if youve worked three years out of the previous six. A 44-year-old in the same predicament would need to have worked roughly 5.5 years in the past 10 in order to qualify.

4. You might not be earning benefits

Those who are employed outside of the traditional system laborers being paid cash under the table, for example will not be building up credits that count toward Social Security benefits. Some state and local employees and railroad workers are exempt from paying Social Security taxes because they are covered by their own pension programs. As a result, they do not qualify for Social Security benefits.

5. Your future retirement benefits could be reduced

The Social Security Administration reports the system needs to be changed. In 2037, "at the point where the reserves are used up, continuing taxes are expected to be enough to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits. Thus, the Congress will need to make changes to the scheduled benefits and revenue sources for the program in the future.

If you are younger than 50, changes in the Social Security program will likely impact your future benefits. Congress is reluctant to deal with the problem because of the potential for causing voter wrath. If you are concerned about your eventual benefit, you need to speak up.

During an April 14 speech, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie revealed his plan for solving the Social Security shortfall. He recommended raising the retirement age to 69 gradually and beginning in 2022 and raising early retirement to 64. He proposed reducing Social Security payments for people making more than $80,000 and eliminating benefits for anyone earning more than $200,000 a year.

6. You need to plan now

In a survey by Wells Fargo, most of the respondents estimated that Social Security would cover 25 percent of their retirement income needs. According to the Social Security Administration, however, 52 percent of elderly married couples and 74 percent of unmarried persons receive more than half of their income from Social Security.

The survey seemed to indicate that many people are fairly ignorant about planning for retirement. Half of the respondents thought their savings would generate 10 percent or more annually during retirement, even though most experts predict that the true number is 3 percent to 4 percent. And 75 percent of those surveyed admitted that their retirement calculations are just a guess.

A successful retirement takes extensive preparation, yet many people spend more time and effort planning a vacation. Because Social Security plays a critical role for most retirees, it does not make sense to ignore it until the retirement years are at the doorstep.