A summary of Social Security eligibility and benefits:

Eligibility: Any one can qualify for benefits in his or her own right by working in a job subject to the Social Security tax for 40 quarter years, or if less, one quarter between age 21 and the time the worker becomes disabled or dies. (The requirements are less for older workers who were over 21 in 1950.) Self-employed are subject to the tax, too. About 90 per cent of the workforce is in covered employment.

Basie Benefits: The insured worker is entitled to a retirement pension at age 65 (or optionally at 62 but on a reduced basis), a disability pension if under 65 if he becomes severely disabled. If retired, he gets Medicare at 65; if disabled, at any age after a 24-month waiting period. The maximum retirement benefit for an individual retiring at 65 now on his or her own record is $459.80 a month, but the average is only $234. The maximum benefit for a young disabled worker retiring early this year will be $642.90; the average is $262.

Dependents' Benefits: The wife and children of an insured worker (and of a divorced wife if she does not remarry and has been married to him for a minimum period) are entitled to monthly benefits if he dies, is disabled or retires.

There are various qualifications, but generally an aged wife or minor child of an insured retired worker is entitled to a dependent's pension equal to 50 per cent of the worker's basic retirement pension. A tyical older couple in this situation will receive 150 per cent of what the worker alone would have received. The current maximum for a retired couple, where the wife's benefit is derived from the husband's if $690 a month, but the average is only $400. The wife of a disabled worker can also receive such a benefit under certain conditions.

The widow of an insured worker gets a pension at 65 equal to 100 per cent to what her deceased husband would have received; a minor child gets 50 per cent. (Reduced widows' benefits are available at age 60.)

All dependents and survivors 65 and over are entitled to Medicare benefits.

In most cases, but not all, the husband of an insured woman worker is entitled to the same dependents' benefits as the wife of an insured worker. When a person is entitled to benefits both as an insured worker and as a dependent, only the higher of the two benefits is paid.