You've probably noticed the unusually cold and stormy weather we've been experiencing this year. That makes it more appropriate than ever to recognize National Umbrella Month this March.
National Umbrella Month is a time to celebrate a useful invention used by most everyone. It's no coincidence that the month comes at the beginning of the rainy season.
April showers may bring May flowers, but the rain starts pouring in March. When the rain pours, an umbrella has you covered.
If you work and pay Social Security taxes, we have you covered, too.
Whether the storm that hits you unexpectedly is a disability, the loss of a loved one, or an unexpected early retirement (such things can sneak up on you like a sudden storm), Social Security's umbrella of coverage will keep you protected from the harsh weather.
You qualify for Social Security benefits by earning credits when you work in a job or are self-employed and pay Social Security payroll taxes.
In 2014, you receive one credit for each $1,200 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Most people need 10 years of work (40 credits) to be eligible for retirement benefits.
The number of credits you need for disability benefits depends on how old you are when you become disabled. For example, if your disability occurs before age 24, you generally need 1½ years of work (six credits) in the three years before you became disabled. At age 31 or older, you generally need at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.
In most cases, you need to have worked about 10 years for surviving family members to qualify for survivors benefits.
Survivors of very young workers may be eligible if the deceased worker was employed for 1½ years during the three years before his or her death.
Umbrellas have been around for thousands of years. Social Security has only been around since 1935. Yet the Social Security umbrella covers an expanded range of services for you and your family.
When you need to learn more about disability, survivors or retirement, the place to go is www.socialsecurity.gov.
And you don't even have to grab your umbrella on your way to apply – just do it online from the dry comfort of your own home or office computer.
Tony Williams is a Social Security Public Affairs specialist in Aiken.