How Much Social Security Will I Get?

If you’re like most working American, you have wondered what your Social Security payment might look like when you finally retire. Over the last couple of decades, there has been plenty of media coverage speculating on whether or not Social Security will still be around in ten, twenty, thirty or more years.

piggy bank used for saving money

Social Security first started making payments to retirees back in January of 1937. It didn’t take too long before the program grew and payments started going to retiree’s survivors, and later to disabled persons in need of financial support. Now, over 67 million people are receiving Social Security payments in some form or fashion. Thankfully, at this point, it appears that Social Security will be well-funded until at least 2034. Social Security is currently running on a surplus and that is anticipated to last through 2022. Further, to ensure that those retiring after 2034 will be able to receive their due benefit, there is no doubt that changes will be made to the program to ensure payments for decades to come.

This all said, assuming that Social Security does indeed continue, many Americans are not sure what their payout will look like. In the past, American workers received annual statements, but as part of a cost-cutting exercise in 2011, those statements ceased. Since that time, only individuals aged 60 or over who don’t have an account set up online with My Social Security will continue to receive those mailed statements.

Getting access to my Social Security calculations

It is relatively easy to calculate your Social Security benefits payment today, especially if you have access to the internet. If you are hesitant to set-up an account with My Social Security, rest assured that the site is highly secured, and sign-on requires two authentication verifications for additional security.

To set up your account, simply go to here. To create your account, you will need to be at least 18 years of age and have the following information available:

  • Valid email address
  • Social Security number
  • United States mailing address

 

Once your account is set up on the site, you will have access to a variety of tools. Perhaps most helpful to start will be the online statement. This is very similar to the paper statements that were sent in the past. However, now the statements are available online and ready for you to download. You can also do several other handy things on the site such as view your estimated benefits, view your earnings, get a benefit verification letter, and request a replacement Social Security card.

As mentioned, a great place to start is in reviewing your online statement. At the top of the first page, you will see a note that indicates your estimated payment per month at full retirement age. In this case, the full retirement age is 67. However, when you scroll to the next page, you will see additional calculations including an estimate for retirement at age 70, or early retirement at age 62. You will also be able to understand the following:

  • Estimated payment if you become disabled right now
  • Estimated payment for your children or spouse if you are to die
  • Total family benefits

Your retirement age will impact your payment

As you see on your statement, the most significant factor in calculating your social security benefits is based on the age you are when you retire and start collecting those benefits. And once you start receiving those benefits, the amount will be the same each month. It will not fluctuate up or down and will continue until you die.

You can start collecting your Social Security benefits at age 62. However, as you can see, the payment will be far less than what you are entitled to. For those who retire early, they can expect to receive only 75% of their full entitlement. And, benefits are reduced by a fraction of a percent for every month you take early payments before the age of 65.

If you retire late, however, things go in the opposite direction. When you wait until age 70 to start drawing benefits, you’ll get about 30 percent more than you would have at full retirement age. The age in which you retire needs to be a personal decision based on your health, goals for retirement, and financial comfort.

Will I have enough money come retirement?

In 2017, the average Social Security benefit for a retired worker was $1,404, and that did not change in 2018. When that figure is calculated by 12 months to get an annual figure, the result is $16,848. On first glance, that number may feel a bit daunting. And, it is no wonder as the poverty guideline for a family of four in the United States is $25,750. For two, that number is $16,910.

Remember, however, that your Social Security benefit when you retire is based on your individual work and earnings. As long as you have four reported quarters of earnings of ten years, you will qualify. This means that both your spouse and you will be able to collect Social Security earnings upon retirement. Further, a nonworking spouse can collect benefits based on a working spouse’s earnings. If two spouses each take benefits based on each of their own earnings, or one spouse accepts payments based on their spouse’s earnings, both spouses can indeed receive Social Security checks concurrently. Thus, if you are married and are both retiring, you will not be limited to one Social Security check.

This all said, in today’s world, it is anticipated that American workers will have access to some sort of retirement account or pension in addition to their Social Security payments. Presently, if you can manage, you can invest up to $19,000 per person per year. Once you turn 50, you can contribute $25,000 per year. If you can’t contribute this much, it is encouraged that you contribute as much as possible per year, and look to make a small increase to your contribution percentage each year so that you can get as close to that maximum as possible.

Can I bring in other income during my retirement?

After people retire, they often decide that they want to take on some sort of part-time work. Whether to keep busy or to help bring in more money, it isn’t all that uncommon. That said, you need to be prepared for the impacts to your Social Security payment should you decide to take on a job.

For those who retired early (before age 65) and who have not yet reached 65, $1 will be deducted from Social Security payments for every $2 that is earned above the yearly Social Security limit of $17,040. For those who have reached their full retirement year, $1 will be deducted from Social Security payments for every $3 earned above the yearly limit of $45,360. Only earnings brought in before the month you reach full retirement age will be considered. Once you have reached your full retirement age, your Social Security benefits will not be affected by how much you earn.

Keep your earnings accurate

Americans are encouraged to keep an eye on their social security statements to ensure that earnings are reported accurately each year. You, your employer(s), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) share the responsibility for ensuring the accuracy of your earnings records. The SSA began recording your income since you began working (assuming you filed and paid your taxes). And keep in mind, however, that it is your earnings and not the amount of taxes you paid, that determines your benefit amount. Should you identify a discrepancy in your report, you must contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 so that steps can be taken to resolve the error.