Did I Lose All Of My Previous Credits By Staying Home To Raise Children?

Mar 12 2019 - 12:25pm

Dear Larry, My husband was a Firefighter, and after marriage I stayed home to take care of my 5 children. He did not pay into social security only Municipal Pension. I was involved any children schooling and activities and have yet to return to work. Im 62. I worked as a RN but let like I said to raise my sons. I have income earned until that point, but not since 1991. Did I lose all my previous credits, and what are my options for returning to work, how long to I have to work and how much $$ in order to qualify for Social Security. Have no savings (cost so much to provide for my boys), and still have mortgage for another year. Any hope??

Hi,

No, you haven't lost any Social Security credits that you previously earned, but you'll need to have a total of at least 40 quarters of coverage (QC) to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. That's the rough equivalent of 10 years of Social Security covered work. You don't mention how long you previously worked so I don't know how long you may still need to work in order to become eligible for benefits.

In 2019, you would be credited with 1 QC for each $1360 of earnings on which you pay Social Security taxes. You can earn a maximum of 4 QCs per year, so you'd receive 4 QCs in 2019 if you earn at least $5440 this year. You should be able to find out how many QCs you need (if any) to reach 40 QCs by contacting Social Security. Social Security also sends periodic mailers referred to as 'Your Social Security Statement' that lists the number of QCs you've earned to date. If you haven't received one of those recently you should be able to get one online by establishing an account using the link on the following Social Security website: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/statement.html.

I should warn you, though, that the benefit rate you'd receive from Social Security if you only have the minimum number of QCs would likely be relatively low. Social Security calculates your retirement benefit rate on an average of your highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings, and if you have earnings in fewer than 35 years then zero earnings years are used in the average. That drags down both the average earnings and the resulting benefit rate. You may want to use our software to find out how much you would qualify for if you do earn enough credits to become eligible for benefits. The software permits you to enter future projected earnings so that you can gauge the effect that they would have on your potential benefit rate.

Best, Jerry