March 1, 2012

YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY Davenport, Iowa Office

By Karen Cole
Social Security District Manager
Davenport, Iowa


March 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. It was on March 9, 1912 that Juliette Gordon Low made a phone call to her cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls… and we’re going to start it tonight.” A few days later, on March 12, she organized the first U.S. “Girl Guide” troop in Savannah, Georgia, with 18 members in two patrols. Today, there are more than three million Girl Scouts. The organization’s motto is “Be prepared.”

That same advice can help your retirement savings to grow as plentiful as the Girl Scouts have over the last 100 years. The best way for you to “be prepared” when it comes to retirement planning is to visit our online Retirement Estimator. The Estimator can give you an instant, personalized picture of your future retirement benefits from Social Security. Enter different scenarios (such as different future earnings amounts or dates of retirement) to find out how that will change the benefit amount you can expect to receive. It’s available at Knowing how much you can expect to receive from Social Security, coupled with any retirement plans you may have through your employer, will help you figure out how much you need to save for your retirement.

Looking for more tips on planning for the future? Pay a visit to our Benefits Planners as well. You can use the planners to help you better understand your Social Security protection as you plan for your financial future. Get started at

Another great source of help is the Ballpark E$timate. It includes a two-page worksheet that helps you quickly identify approximately how much you need to save to fund a comfortable retirement. The Ballpark E$timate takes issues like projected Social Security benefits and earnings assumptions on savings, and turns them into language and mathematics that are easy to understand. You can find it at

You don’t have to be a Girl Scout to be prepared. Sit down at your computer — perhaps with a box of Girl Scout cookies — and plan for your future. You could be celebrating your own 100th year one day; you might as well do it comfortably.

Is the weather outside frightful? Never fear, Social Security service is always so delightful at



I lost my Social Security card, should I get a new one?
If you know your Social Security number, you may not need a replacement card. You can replace your Social Security card for free if it is lost or stolen, but you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Learn more at

I worked for the last 10 years, and I now have my 40 credits. Does this mean that I can stop working and get the maximum Social Security retirement benefit when it’s time to retire?
The 40 credits are the minimum number you need to qualify for retirement benefits. However, we do not base the amount of the benefit on those credits; we base it on your earnings over your working lifetime. To learn more about Social Security retirement benefits and how your benefit amount is figured, read our online publication, Retirement Benefits, at


I want to estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages. Is there a way to do that?
Use our Retirement Estimator at to get an instant, personalized retirement benefit estimate based on current law and your earnings record. The Retirement Estimator, which also is available in Spanish, lets you create additional “what if” retirement scenarios based on different income levels and “stop work” ages.

If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?
No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse’s Social Security benefit amount, and couples are not penalized simply because they are married. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. Learn more about earning Social Security credits by reading our publication on the subject at


I am receiving Social Security disability benefits. Is there a way for me to try working and not lose my benefits?
We have special rules called “work incentives” that help you keep your benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. For example, there is a “trial work period” during which you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment. For more information about work incentives if you collect disability benefits and want to return to work, we recommend that you read the leaflet, Working While Disabled-How We Can Help at

I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. Is there a time limit on how long you can collect Social Security disability benefits?
Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. We will review your case at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. Learn more by reading our publication, Disability Benefits, at