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until you qualify. No retirement benefits are paid out until you have reached the required number of credits. However, most people have more than enough credits by the time they retire. All your excess credits do not increase your social security benefit; however the longer you work, the more likely it is that your income will increase, and that will affect how much you receive in benefits.

There are two types of people who are exempt from mandatory participation in the program. First, federal civilian employees who were hired prior to 1984 and are covered by the Civil Service Retire- ment System are exempt. The second group is comprised of employees of state and local governments who have chosen to not be covered, although an overwhelming majority of these workers are covered under a voluntary participation in the program. Additionally, certain marginal employment positions, such as newspaper carriers under the age of 18 and full-time college students working in fraternity and sorority houses, are also excluded. The largest segment of exempt workers are those who are state and local government employees because these groups aren’t forced to participate since the federal gov- ernment cannot impose a tax on state and local governments. However, once one of these employees has chosen to be included in the program, they are forced to stay in. They don’t have the option of leaving.

What Kind of Benefit Can I Expect? The amount of money you receive on a monthly basis from the gov- ernment is determined by how much money you earned while work- ing. The more money you earned during your working life, the more money you will receive in social security benefits. But, your benefit is also affected by your age—specifically, how old you are when you begin to receive your benefits. The government classifies early retirement as retiring at age 62, while full retirement ranges from ages 65 to 67. (See Table 13.1.) The government has instituted a new retirement age to receive full benefits, but they have done so in a staggering fashion. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t retire from your job until you are 62 or older. That’s just when you can begin receiving social security retirement benefits. As a worker claiming benefits, you must be no younger than 62 years old. There are other exceptions to this, which are discussed shortly.

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