Most people who work for a living, either as employees or as self-employed persons, are covered by Social Security's old age, survivors and disability insurance program.As a retirement program, Social Security pays a monthly cash benefit to workers who have the equivalent of at least 40 months of work under Social Security, and who are at least 62 years old. The amount of the benefit is based on the worker's primary insurance amount. The PIA depends on how long he worked under Social Security and the amount of his Social Security wages. Social Security benefits may also be paid to a retired worker's qualifying dependents, such as a spouse, a widow or widower, and certain children. The benefits of a worker's dependents also are based on the worker's PIA.

If a worker retires at full Social Security retirement age, her benefits will equal her PIA. A worker who retires at or after age 62, but before full Social Security retirement age, will receive a reduced benefit. A worker who delays claiming benefits until after full Social Security retirement age will receive an increased benefit. The amount of the benefits of a spouse, widow or widower of a worker also depends on whether the benefits are claimed at, before or after full Social Security retirement age.

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