Social Security quarters


Q. I am a 65-year-old federal employee on the CSRS retirement plan. I plan to retire next month after 39 years in the government. I have earned 20 quarters of Social Security credits but need 20 more to qualify for any benefits. Would it be worth my while to work for five more years (20 quarters) in private industry to qualify for these benefits, or will it all be offset by the CSRS retirement? If I choose to work, what is the minimum amount of money I have to make each year or what is the minimum number of hours I have to work each year to qualify for Social Security benefits after five more years (20 quarters) of work?

A. The windfall elimination provision reduces but doesn’t eliminate the Social Security benefit of anyone who receives an annuity from a retirement system, such as CSRS, where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes. Therefore, if you worked in the private sector and earned enough additional credits to be eligible for a benefit, you’d get something. To get one credit in 2012, you’d have to earn $1,130. To get four, your have to earn $4,520, and you could do that all at once or over time. The amount needed to get one credit is adjusted each year by the amount of the annual cost-of-living adjustment.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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