How To Estimate Your Social Security Income
Two facts are knownSocial Security benefits are not guaranteed, and some changes will be necessary to keep the system solvent in the future as millions of baby boomers retire and begin to receive their Social Security benefits. Though these facts create uncertainty, its also true that the quality of your retirement depends on your planningand you must start planning somewhere.
A good starting point is to figure out the dollar amount of the retirement benefits to which all of your years of Social Security contributions entitle you under current law. There are four ways to do this:
How Are Spousal Benefits Calculated For Social Security For Married People
If someone is married to a worker eligible for Social Security benefits, they may be able to claim spousal benefits based on their worker spouses earnings. Social Security spousal benefits are based on the worker spouses earnings and the age of the claiming spouse. Note that spousal benefits do not in any way decrease your spouses retirement benefit.
To qualify for Social Security spousal benefits:
- Both the higher-earning worker and the claiming spouse must be at least 62
- The couple must have been married for at least one year
- The higher-earning worker spouse must already be receiving their earned benefit
Depending on the age that the spouse claims, the benefits can range between 32.5%-50% of the worker spouses primary insurance amount . As with earned benefits, youll receive less than the full spousal benefit if you decide to claim before your full retirement age. But unlike earned benefits, you dont receive more if you wait to claim spousal past full retirement age. In fact youll actually be forfeiting some money by waiting longer.
If only one spouse worked, then the Social Security Administration calculates half of the worker spouses PIA and adjusts it based on the age of the claiming spouse.
How Your Ssdi Payments Are Calculated
The severity of your disability will not affect the amount of SSDI benefits you receive. The Social Security Administration will determine your payment based on your lifetime average earnings before you became disabled. Your benefit amount will be calculated using your covered earnings. These are your earnings at jobs where your employer took money out of your wages for Social Security or FICA.
Your SSDI monthly benefit will be based on your average covered earnings over a period of time, which is referred to as your average indexed monthly earnings . The SSA uses these amounts in a formula to determine your primary insurance amount . This is the basic amount used to establish your benefit.
SSDI payments range on average between $800 and $1,800 per month. The maximum benefit you could receive in 2020 is $3,011 per month. The SSA has an online benefits calculator that you can use to obtain an estimate of your monthly benefits.
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Average Indexed Monthly Earnings
To calculate your AIME, the administration takes each year’s income throughout your working life and adjusts it for inflation . It then caps those adjusted incomes at the taxable maximum for Social Security. The agency then takes the 35 highest-earning years and calculates an average monthly income from them. This is your AIME.
For people who worked more than 35 years their lowest-earning years are dropped from the calculation. For people who worked less than 35 years the Social Security Administration calculates a “$0” in place.
Your Monthly Benefits For Ssdi Is Not Based On Your Disability
The amount that you receive for Social Security disability is based on your earnings before you became disabled. Your payment is not based the severity of your disability, however your current income must be below a certain threshold to be eligible for SSDI. If you receive payments for your disability from other government sources, your monthly payment for SSD may be lowered.
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What Does Aarps Social Security Benefits Calculator Do
The calculator provides an estimate of your Social Security benefits, based on your earnings history and age. Our tool also helps you see what percentage of daily expenses your payments can cover, and how you can increase your benefits by waiting to collect. It can also tell you how your retirement earnings will be affected if you keep working after you claim your Social Security benefit.
Other Benefits Will Be Delayed If You Delay Your Old Age Security Payment
If you are not in receipt of the Old Age Security pension:
- you cannot get the Guaranteed Income Supplement
- your spouse cannot apply for the Allowance
Note: The Guaranteed Income Supplement and Allowance amounts dont increase when you delay receiving Old Age Security pension payments. You cannot receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement and your partner cannot receive the Allowance when you are not receiving the Old Age Security pension.
When monthly increases are not applied
If you decide to delay receiving the Old Age Security pension, you will not receive monthly increases during any month where you are:
- in federal prison as a result of a sentence of 2 years or longer
- outside Canada, have less than 20 years of residence in Canada and do not qualify under an international social security agreement
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Calculating The Income Replacement Rate For Social Security Benefits
Although not commonly understood, the calculation of Social Security benefits is really nothing more than an income replacement formula, similar to a pension. Just as a pension might offer an up-to-70% replacement rate based on the average of your last 5 years of wages, Social Security also provides benefits that are a replacement of your earnings based on your years of service. The primary difference is simply that Social Security uses a 35-year average of earnings that accrue based on your years of service , and the replacement rate itself is based on your income .
The individuals 35-year average of earnings is known as AIME Average Indexed Monthly Earnings and is calculated as a monthly average income over 35 years , and is inflation-adjusted . Notably, the lifetime earnings used to calculate the 35-year average of inflation-adjusted income is based on the highest 35 years of historical earnings, regardless of whether they were consecutive years or not.
Replacement rates are then calculated based on the highest-35-year AIME amount with the first $885/month replaced at 90%, the next $4,651/month replaced at 32%, and anything else replaced at 15%.
The final benefit is known as the Primary Insurance Amount , and becomes available to the retiree at Full Retirement Age .
How Is Social Security Calculated
There is a three-step process used to calculate the amount of Social Security benefits you will receive.
Step 1: Use your earnings history to calculate your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings .Step 2: Use your AIME to calculate your primary insurance amount .Step 3: Use your PIA, and adjust it for the age when you will begin receiving benefits.
You can use a copy of your Social Security statement that provides your earnings history to plug your own numbers into the formulas below.
Don’t Miss: Ssa.gov Social Security Benefits
Determine Wages For Each Year You Worked
You can get your earnings records from the Social Security Administration. Simply sign into mySocialSecurity and click “View Earnings Record.” You will need to create an account if you don’t already have one.
Your earnings record will list your wages for every year you worked and paid into the Social Security system. However, you’re only given credit for wages you paid Social Security tax on.
There’s a maximum annual limit on wages subject to Social Security tax. No income earned above the annual limit counts toward determining your benefits. In 2019, the maximum earnings subject to Social Security tax are $132,900. If even if you earned $132,900.01 or above, wages for 2019 for Social Security purposes would be recorded as $132,900.
Fact #: Social Security Provides A Foundation Of Retirement Protection For Nearly Every American And Its Benefits Are Not Means
97% of the elderly either receive Social Security or will receive it.
Almost all workers participate in Social Security by making payroll tax contributions, and almost all elderly Americans receive Social Security benefits. In fact, 97 percent of the elderly either receive Social Security or will receive it, according to Social Security Administration estimates. The near-universality of Social Security brings many important advantages.
Social Security provides a foundation of retirement protection for people at all earnings levels. It encourages private pensions and personal saving because it isnt means-tested in other words, it doesnt reduce or deny benefits to people whose income or assets exceed a certain level. Social Security provides a higher annual payout than private retirement annuities per dollar contributed because its risk pool is not limited to those who expect to live a long time, no funds leak out in lump-sum payments or bequests, and its administrative costs are much lower.
Indeed, universal participation and the absence of means-testing make Social Security very efficient to administer. Administrative costs amount to only 0.6 percent of annual benefits, far below the percentages for private retirement annuities. Means-testing Social Security would impose significant reporting and processing burdens on both recipients and administrators, undercutting many of those advantages while yielding little savings.
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Reduction For Disability Payments From Other Sources
If you receive disability benefits from a private source, like a private pension or private insurance benefits, these benefits will not affect your SSDI benefits. If, however, you receive other public disability benefits, they may affect your SSDI benefits. For instance, if you were injured on the job and are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, the amount of SSDI benefits you receive might be reduced.
Other disability benefits that are not job-related and are paid for by the federal, state, or local government may also reduce your SSDI benefit amount. Examples of these include temporary disability benefits paid by the state, military disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits that are based on disability. Some public benefits are not counted toward the 80%, including SSI or VA benefits.
The combined total amounts you receive from SSDI and all other public disability benefits cannot be more than 80% of the average amount you earned before you became disabled. If the amount is more than 80% of what your average earnings were before you became disabled, in most states, the excess amount is deducted from your SSDI benefits.
The interaction between workers’ compensation and SSDI can be complicated and varies depending on what state you live in. If you qualify for more than one public disability benefit, you may want to speak with an attorney to make sure you do not miss out on any benefits you are entitled to.
If You Have Lived In Canada Less Than 40 Years
Not everyone receives the full Old Age Security pension. The amount you receive depends on the number of years you have lived in Canada.
If you lived in Canada for less than 40 years you will receive a partial payment amount. Your payment amount is based on the number of years in Canada divided by 40.
You can delay your first payment up to 5 years to get a higher amount.
If you lived in Canada for 20 years
If you lived in Canada for 20 years after age 18, you would receive a payment equal to 20 divided by 40, or 50%, of the full Old Age Security pension.
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Calculating Fica Taxes: An Example
An employee who makes $165,240 a year collects semi-monthly paychecks of $6,885 before taxes and any retirement-plan withholding. Though Medicare tax is due on the entire salary, only the first $147,000 is subject to the Social Security tax for 2021. Since $147,000 divided by $6,885 is 21.3, this threshold is reached after the 22nd paycheck.
For the first 21 pay periods, therefore, the total FICA tax withholding is equal to + , or $526.70. Only the Medicare HI tax is applicable to the remaining three pay periods, so the withholding is reduced to $6,885 x 1.45%, or $99.83. In total, the employee pays $8,964.27 to Social Security and $2,395.98 to Medicare each year. Though it does not affect the employee’s take-home pay, the employer must contribute the same amount to both programs.
As mentioned above, those who are self-employed are considered both the employer and the employee for tax purposes, meaning they are liable for both contributions. In the example above, a self-employed person with the same salary pays $17,928.54 to Social Security and $4,791.96 to Medicare.
How Inflation Impacts Your Pia
Your PIA is calculated at age 62. If you wait beyond age 62, cost-of-living adjustments will be applied to your PIA for each year afterward.
If you have already had most of your 35 years of earnings, and you are near age 62 today, the age 70 benefit amount you see on your Social Security statement will likely be higher due to these cos- of-living adjustments. Many people do not account for this when doing their own calculations, which can lead them to think that taking Social Security early is a better deal, when waiting is often the better deal.
In the table below, our hypothetical worker, born in 1954, is eligible for full retirement at age 66. The column on the right shows the effect of inflation for waiting beyond age 62 to take their benefits.
|Effect of Age on Claiming Benefits|
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Theres An Annual Social Security Cost
One of the best features of Social Security benefits is that the government adjusts the benefits each year based on inflation. This is called a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, and helps your payments keep up with increasing living expenses. The Social Security COLA is quite valuable its the equivalent of buying inflation protection on a private annuity, which can get expensive.
Because the COLA is calculated based on changes in a federal consumer price index, the size of the COLA depends largely on broad inflation levels determined by the government. In 2021, Social Security beneficiaries saw a 1.3% COLA in their monthly Social Security benefits.
The Kiplinger Letter predicted in September that the COLA for 2022 could be 6%, which would be the largest adjustment since 1982. The final COLA for 2022 will be announced on Oct. 13.
Heres what COLAs have been in other recent years:
- 2009: 5.8%
- 2021: 1.3%
Myth #: You Must Claim Your Social Security Benefit At Age 62
Some people think you have to start claiming your Social Security benefits at age 62. That’s a myth: 62 is the earliest age you can claim your benefit, but it’s not the only age to do so.
Your base benefit is calculated according to your “full retirement age,” or FRA, and your FRA is determined by your date of birth. The Social Security Administration calculates your base Social Security benefit based on your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most .
Tip: You’ll find your FRA at Social Security’s website, SSA.gov, or on a paper statement mailed to you by the SSA. If you were born between 1955 and 1959, your FRA is 66 plus some months. If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is 67.
If you claim Social Security benefits any time before your FRA, you lock in a permanent reduction in monthly income. Claiming at 62 translates to a reduced monthly income of 25% to 30%, relative to your FRA monthly benefit. That means you may receive a lot less monthly retirement income, every year, for potentially several decades. A key consideration for when you claim Social Security benefits is maximizing your income for a retirement that could last longer than 30 years.
Wait until age 70 and lock in a “bonus”:
Read Viewpoints on Fidelity.com: Longevity and retirement
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How Does The Calculator Estimate My Retirement Benefits Payment
Our simplified estimate is based on two main data points: your age and average earnings. Your retirement benefit is based on how much youve earned over your lifetime at jobs for which you paid Social Security taxes. Your monthly retirement benefit is based on your highest 35 years of salary history. You can get your earnings history from the Social Security Administration .
Your Social Security benefit also depends on how old you are when you take it. You can start collecting at age 62, the minimum retirement age, but youll get a bigger monthly payment if you wait until full retirement age, which is 66 but is gradually moving to 67 for people born in 1960 or after. If you can wait until 70 to start collecting, youll receive your maximum monthly benefit.
A single person born in 1960 who has averaged a $50,000 salary, for example, would get $1,332 a month by retiring at 62 the earliest to start collecting. The same person would get $1,911 by waiting until age 67, full retirement age. And he or she would get $2,370, the maximum benefit on those earnings, by waiting until age 70. Payments dont increase if you wait to collect past 70.
Other factors affecting the size of your benefit include whether youve worked for state or local government for more than 10 years your Social Security payment may be decreased if you paid into the civil service retirement program, for example.