Most Americans watch their money go into the Social Security trust fund in the form of payroll deductions as soon as they begin working, when retirement seems a long way off. As a result, many go through their working lives without giving it much thought.

Here are a few facts everyone should know about Social Security benefits before making any decisions about retirement.

Just about anybody who has worked for 10 or more years is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.

"You need 40 quarters of employment, earning a minimum income of $1,120 per quarter," says Brett Horowitz, principal and wealth manager at Evensky & Katz in Coral Gables, Fla.

The income requirement is so low that "it could be met with seasonal work," says Richard W. Stumpf, principal at Financial Benefits in Wichita, Kan.

There are some exceptions. Most federal employees hired before 1984 aren't eligible to participate, Horowitz says. Stumpf adds that pastors may choose not to pay in.

Also, railroad workers and their families generally get benefits through a separate retirement system.

Read more: 5 little-known facts about Social Security http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/5-little-known-facts-abo...

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