As you approach retirement, planning income streams to replace your working wages becomes a necessity. For many Americans, Social Security benefits make up a significant portion of monthly retirement income. However, there are other publicly funded retirement benefits you may qualify for.
Here's what you need to know about these available benefits and how to explore them more deeply.
1. Social Security Retirement Benefits
Social Security is a federal government program funded by taxpayers. The Social Security Administration (SSA) then takes the money collected and redistributes it to people who qualify.
Typically, you must work at least 10 years to be eligible for Social Security benefits. Among other factors, the highest 35 years of work income are used to calculate an individual's benefits. Depending on the year you're born, most Americans can begin claiming standard Social Security benefits between the ages of 62 and 70.
2. Disability Benefits
Adults age 18 and older can claim disability benefits if they qualify. These benefits help those who can't work due to a physical or mental disability that may last at least 12 months. As with standard Social Security benefits, income is determined by the average income you earned during the time you worked.
These benefits will last throughout your disability — or even for the rest of your life. Some of your loved ones may also claim your disability benefits. For example, if your spouse is over 62, they can use your benefits toward retirement.
To apply for disability, you'll need to submit health and income information to the SSA. To qualify, the disability must be on the Social Security impairment list. If the SSA approves your application, you will receive monthly benefits.
3. Survivor's Benefits
Another Social Security retirement benefit is called Survivor's Benefits. These are often also called widow(er)'s benefits. Funds are distributed to the qualifying surviving spouse of a deceased person who was eligible to collect Social Security.
Any current surviving spouse over the age of 60 can claim benefits. In addition, if you were married to the deceased beneficiary for at least 10 years, got divorced and have not remarried, you're also eligible to apply. Surviving spouses may claim their own Social Security benefits or those of their deceased spouse, whichever is higher. The SSA will also pay a one-time death benefit of $255 to the surviving spouse.
To apply for survivor's benefits, you must contact the SSA after your loved one's death and schedule an appointment. Unfortunately, you cannot apply online.
4. Veterans Benefits
Those who have served in the military may be eligible for Veterans benefits as another path for retirement income via The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Depending on your service and wages, you may be eligible for a Veterans Pension. This program helps veterans who have limited income and meet age and disability requirements get a monthly payment. People over 65 and those receiving disability or supplemental security income may apply. As with Social Security benefits, spouses may also be eligible for a VA survivor's pension.
To apply for any available benefits to veterans, visit the VA website to learn more and begin your application process.
5. Supplemental Security Income Benefits
Another potential retirement benefit to be aware of is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). It helps those who can't earn sufficient wages on their own and is available to people 65 or older.
If you have a qualifying work history, you may be able to claim SSI in addition to retirement or disability benefits. As with other forms of Social Security, the amount you receive every month is based on a few factors, including income and where you live.
To apply for SSI, review the eligibility requirements first. Then make an appointment with the SSA to review your options and fill out an application. You can apply online or make an appointment at your local Social Security office.
Explore All Your Options
With retirement just around the corner, prepare by exploring all of the potential benefits available to you. If you aren't sure what you may qualify for, consider consulting with a financial professional who can help you navigate the various government-provided choices.