Clinton Diary | Expand your knowledge of social security with these terms

We strive to explain your benefits in understandable, clear language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate information clearly in a way that “the public can understand and use.” This can be especially challenging when it comes to complicated programs like Social Security, Supplemental Income, and Medicare.

Take a moment to learn some common Social Security terms and acronyms!

COLA: This stands for ‘Cost of Living Adjustment’. With COLAs, Social Security and supplemental income benefits keep pace with inflation. Most years, your monthly benefit will be a COLA, which usually means extra money.

credit: As you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits — formerly called “Quarters of Coverage” — that count toward your eligibility for future Social Security benefits. You can earn a maximum of four credits per year. Most people need 40 credits to qualify for benefits. Young people need fewer credits to qualify for disability or survivor’s benefits. For more information, see Social Security Credits at

Income record: This is the chronological history of the amount of money you have earned each year during your working life. Your credits remain on your Social Security income statement even if you change jobs or have no income for a period of time. View your earnings statement with a personal My Social Security account at

FICA: This stands for “Federal Insurance Contributions Act”. It is the tax withheld from your wages and used to fund Social Security and Medicare programs.

If any of these terms or acronyms come up in a conversation, you can help explain what they mean. Visit our online glossary at to learn more about our terminology and to understand more about how Social Security works for you.

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