Are Social Security and SSI the same thing?

Q. When I see SSI does that mean Social Security, or is there a difference?

Adam answers:

Social Security and SSI are not the same thing, but it’s an understandable question.

When most people use the term “Social Security”, they are talking about the money they receive from the U.S. government in retirement. The amount retired people get in Social Security each month is calculated from the amount of money they made during their work years (and the Social Security taxes they paid during that time). Everyone with a work history is eligible for this type of Social Security, regardless of how much money you make or how many assets you have.

SSI, which stands for Supplemental Security Income, is a program specifically for low-income people, and it can include payments for those with disabilities, those who are blind, or those 65 or older who are below certain standards for income and other assets. Unlike Social Security retirement benefits, you don’t automatically qualify for SSI based on your work history but instead you must meet one of the other requirements. (By the way, it is possible to get Social Security retirement benefits and still qualify for SSI.)

One last note: technically, Social Security encompasses all of the programs under the Social Security Administration, which includes Social Security retirement benefits, SSI, Medicare, disability benefits, and more. But the term “Social Security” is used by many people as shorthand for just the retirement benefits, as in “I’m trying to decide if I want to take Social Security at age 62 or 65 or 70.”