Social Security Credits: What They Are and 3 Easy Jobs To Help You Build Them Before It’s Too Late

Close up of Aging female hands holding Social Security card.
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Social Security isn’t paid out to everyone who retires. To earn a Social Security benefit, you must qualify by garnering a sufficient amount of Social Security credits. Only then will you receive the monthly payments you may be expecting after you retire.

To understand how Social Security credits work, and what you can do to easily earn them, read on.

What Are Social Security Credits and How Do They Work?

Social Security “credits” are technically defined as “quarters of coverage.” You need to earn 40 quarters of coverage to qualify for Social Security. As the name would suggest, you can earn up to four quarters of coverage per year. This might imply that you need to work at least 10 years to earn your 40 quarters of coverage, but that’s not technically true. 

As of 2023, you can earn one quarter of coverage for every $1,640 that you earn. This means that as soon as you earn $6,560 in a year, you’ve already snagged your four quarters of coverage for that year.

The important thing to remember is that no matter how much more you earn, you won’t be granted more than four quarters of coverage per year. In that sense, yes, it will take you at least 10 years to earn your 40 quarters of coverage, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll need to work a full year in each of those years.

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Jobs That Can Easily Help You Earn Social Security Credits

Although most jobs will qualify you for quarters of coverage, not all will. In order to earn Social Security benefits, you must work jobs for which you pay Social Security taxes. For the most part, any job you work for a separate employer will qualify. If you’re self-employed and run your own business, you’ll also pay Social Security taxes.

But if you work a side gig where you get paid in cash, for example, or perhaps a part-time gig where you get paid under the table, you’ll be responsible for declaring those earnings and paying your Social Security taxes yourself if you want to qualify for quarters of coverage. 

If you just need a few more quarters of coverage to qualify for your Social Security benefits, you might consider working an online job for a few hours a week or picking up some part-time shifts at a local business. Remember, you only need to earn $6,560 per year to earn four quarters of coverage. If you can find a job for $20 per hour, that means you’ll have to put in 328 hours of work over the course of a year, or a little over 6 hours per week. Here are some sample jobs that might help you get over the hump.  

Online Translation or Tutoring

One of the easiest ways to rack up Social Security credits is to do some type of work from home. If you’ve got the skills to make it feasible, working as an online translator or tutor is a great way to earn $20 per hour and work just a few hours per week.

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Unlike other jobs that require you to work specific hours or 20 hours or more per week, you can often make your own hours and take on as much or as little work as you want as an online translator or tutor.

Part-Time Gig at Your Local Retailer

For those that prefer to get out of the house, it’s usually not much of a stretch to find a part-time gig at one of your local retailers. Whether you prefer to work in a stockroom, as a retail associate or in customer service, you can often earn from $16 to $23 per hour and up working a part-time schedule.

At even $16 per hour, working just 10 hours a week could earn you $8,320 per year, more than enough to get your four annual quarters of coverage. 

Virtual Assistant or Customer Service Representative

Much like an online tutoring or translating gig, becoming a virtual assistant or customer service representative can be a good way to get quarters of coverage without leaving your own home. In fact, the average virtual assistant job in California posted on Indeed paid $30.47 per hour — not bad for a job you can do behind your desk at home.

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