If I pay the maximum into Social Security every year, how many years do I have to do this to be guaranteed Social Security benefits when I retire?
Ten years (or 40 quarters) of contributions ensure that you'll get your moolah come your retirement years. But the amount of your Social Security checks will vary depending on how much you've contributed and how long you've been doing so. The Social Security administration looks at your highest earnings over a 35-year period. If you contributed the maximum amount—right now, that's $6,450 a year—for 10 years, but nothing the other 25 years, they'd still divide your total contributions by 35. Bottom line: The more you put in, the more you get out. Kinda like marriage.