Social Security's going to look quite different in 2023 thanks to a historic 8.7% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). That's a welcome relief for seniors who have been struggling to keep up with sky-high inflation this year.

But workers might be less pleased with some of the changes the government has made to Social Security for next year. There's one rule in particular that could make it more difficult to qualify for benefits. Here's what you need to know.

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You have to earn your Social Security benefits

You become eligible for Social Security by paying taxes on your income during your working years. As you do this, you earn Social Security credits. You must earn 40 credits in order to be eligible for retirement benefits once you turn 62.

The definition of a Social Security credit changes every year. In 2022, $1,510 in earnings counts as one credit. But in 2023, that amount jumps to $1,640. A $130 increase is pretty significant. In the last decade, the typical increase was anywhere from $40 to $60 per year.

You're only allowed to earn four credits per year. In 2023, you'll have to earn at least $6,560 to get your four credits for the year, compared to just $6,040 in 2022.

Who does this change affect?

The higher income requirements for Social Security credits only affect you if you haven't already earned the 40 credits you need to qualify for benefits. Since the Social Security credit amount will reach an all-time high in 2023, it's safe to say that if you've earned at least $6,560 in at least 10 years, you've done enough to qualify for retirement benefits.

But if you're not sure if you're eligible, you can find out by creating a my Social Security account. When you first set up an account, you'll have to answer some identity verification questions to prove you're you and not an identity thief. But on future login attempts, you can just use a username and password. 

Once your account is set up, you can view all sorts of information about your future Social Security benefit, including whether you've earned enough credits to qualify. If you haven't, it will tell you how many more you need to earn to do so.

What if you retire without 40 credits?

You may still be eligible for a spousal Social Security benefit if you don't earn 40 work credits. However, your spouse must have worked enough to qualify for Social Security in order for you to do this. A spousal benefit is worth up to half of your partner's benefit at their full retirement age (FRA). But you cannot claim this benefit until your spouse has signed up for Social Security. 

If you're not married, you won't be able to claim Social Security when you retire. So it's best to remain in the workforce a while longer, if you're able to, until you reach your 40 credits. And working even longer isn't a bad idea. The more money you pay Social Security taxes on, the larger your future benefit will be.