Who Can Use The Retirement Estimator
You can use the Retirement Estimator if you have enough Social Security credits to qualify for benefits and you are not:
- Currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record.
- Waiting for a decision about your application for benefits or Medicare.
- Age 62 or older and receiving benefits on another Social Security record.
- Eligible for a Pension Based on Work Not Covered By Social Security.
If you are currently receiving only Medicare benefits, you can still get an estimate. For more information, read our publication Retirement Information for Medicare Beneficiaries.
If you cannot use the Retirement Estimator or you want a survivors or disability benefit estimate, please use one of our other benefit calculators.
Social Security For Spouses And Survivors
Spousal benefits are available to current or widowed spouses aged 62 or older. Applications for spousal benefits are not valid until the other spouse files for their own benefits. It is possible for a non-working spouse to be eligible for a spousal benefit based on their working spouse’s benefit. Based on the working spouse’s age of retirement, the spousal benefit can be up to half of the working spouse’s benefit.
A widow or widower can collect a survivor benefit as early as age 60, given that the marriage lasted more than nine months. This requirement is waived if the widow or widower has a child under the age of 16. In the case where both individuals in a married couple are receiving SS benefits, and one dies, the widow or widower can continue receiving their own benefit or their spouse’s, but not both. It is also possible for a widow or widower to switch benefits in retirement. For instance, if the deceased spouse was scheduled to receive larger benefit amounts at age 70, the widow or widower can first file for their own benefits, then claim their former spouse’s benefits later in order to maximize payments.
A person who is divorced, who was married for more than 10 years and has not remarried, can receive benefits based on their ex-spouse’s work history as long as the divorced person meets all of the following conditions:
The ex-spouse’s benefits can also be claimed even if the ex-spouse has not filed for their own benefits, as long as both parties are above age 62.
When Will You Collect
The SSA calculates your benefit amount at your full retirement age . This depends on the year you were born. FRA by birth year is:
- 19431954: age 66
- 1955: age 66 and two months
- 1956: age 66 and four months
- 1957: age 66 and six months
- 1958: age 66 and eight months
- 1959: age 66 and 10 months
- 1960 and later: age 67
The monthly amount you are eligible to receive at your FRA is considered your full benefit, but it is not your minimum or maximum benefit.
You have the option to file for early retirement as early as age 62. But, you may choose to delay taking your benefits until as late as age 70.
There are many reasons why you might choose to take early retirement or to delay it. That choice has a direct impact on the amount of your monthly payment. If you opt for early retirement, you are choosing a lower monthly payment for the rest of your life. By choosing to delay your benefit to any age between your FRA and age 70, you lock in an increase.
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Find Out Your Estimated Social Security Benefits
Periodically checking your estimated Social Security benefits serves several purposes: It helps you plan for retirement and allows you to check for and correct errors.
The Social Security Administration keeps a database of your earnings record and work credits, tracking both through your Social Security number. You can see this information on your Social Security Statement, which is available to everyone age 25 and over. The Social Security Statement also gives you an estimate of the benefits you’ll receive at retirement age, which can play an important role in your financial planning.
Make Payments To The Federal Government
Learn how to use Pay.gov to make secure, electronic payments to government agencies from your checking or savings account. You can use the online service for VA medical care copayments, U.S. district court tickets, U.S. Coast Guard merchant mariner user fee payments, and more.
If you need help, contact Pay.gov customer service.
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How To Get A Copy Of Your Social Security Statement
The SSA mails out Social Security Statements to follks age 25 and over before their birthdays during their 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 years. For those age 60 until retirement, the SSA will send out statements every year. You can also go online to get a copy of your statement or view it online. Go to www.ssa.gov/mystatement/ and open an account with Social Security to view your statement.
What If I Continue Working In My 60s
Many people whose health allows them to continue working in their 60s and beyond find that staying in the workforce keeps them young and gives them a sense of purpose. If this sounds like something youâd like to do, know that working after claiming early benefits may affect the amount you receive from Social Security. Why? Because the Social Security Administration wants to spread out your earnings so you donât outlive them. If you claim Social Security benefits early and then continue working, youâll be subject to whatâs called the Retirement Earnings Test.
If youâre between age 62 and your full retirement age, and youâre claiming benefits, you need to know about the Earnings Test Exempt Amount, a threshold that changes yearly. For 2021, the Retirement Earnings Test Exempt Amount is $18,960/year . If youâre in this age group and claiming benefits, then every $2 you make above the Exempt Amount will reduce by $1 the Social Security benefits you’ll receive.
Contrary to popular belief, this money doesnât disappear. It gets credited back to you – with interest – in the form of higher future benefits. You may hear people grumbling about the Social Security âEarnings Taxâ, but itâs not really a tax. Itâs a deferment of your benefits designed to keep you from spending too much too soon. And after you hit your full retirement age, you can work to your heartâs content without any reduction in your benefits.
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How To Receive Federal Benefits
To begin receiving your federal benefits, like Social Security or veterans benefits, you must sign up for electronic payments with direct deposit.
If You Have a Bank or Credit Union Account:
- Call the Go Direct Helpline at .
If You Don’t have a Bank or Credit Union Account:
- Direct Express debit card – a pre-paid debit card. Get help by calling the Go Direct Helpline at .
Make Changes to an Existing Direct Deposit Account:
Learn how to make changes to an existing direct deposit account. You also may contact the federal agency that pays your benefit for help with your enrollment.
Compare Two Application Ages
Use the following calculation to compare the financial difference between two Social Security retirement benefit application ages. The U.S. Social Security website provides estimated benefit payment amounts of different claim ages.
The term “Social Security” is used in the U.S. to refer to the system that provides monetary assistance to people with inadequate or no income. The term can be better understood by thinking of it as the “financial security of society.” Although they may not go by the same name, there are many similar government systems in place throughout the world. This calculator is specifically intended for U.S. Social Security purposes.
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How Much Will I Get From Social Security
Your retirement benefit is based on your lifetime earnings in work in which you paid Social Security taxes. Higher income translates to a bigger benefit . The amount you are entitled to is modified by other factors, most crucially the age at which you claim benefits.
For reference, the estimated average Social Security retirement benefit in 2021 is $1,543 a month. The maximum benefit the most an individual retiree can get is $3,148 a month for someone who files for Social Security in 2021 at full retirement age, or FRA .
Youll only know your own amount for sure when you apply, but there are ways to get a sense of it in advance. The quickest and easiest is to use AARPs Social Security Benefits Calculator or check your online My Social Security account. The latter draws on your earnings record on file with the Social Security Administration for the AARP calculator, youll need to provide your average annual income.
Both tools project what you could collect each month if you start Social Security at age 62, the earliest you can file at full retirement age, currently 66 and 2 months and gradually rising to 67 and at age 70. Between 62 and FRA, Social Security reduces your benefit for filing early between FRA and 70, it increases your payment as a reward for waiting.
Keep in mind
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How Long Can You Stay On Each Page
For security reasons, there are time limits for viewing each page. You will receive a warning if you dont do anything for 25 minutes, but you will be able to extend your time on the page.
After the third warning on a page, you must move to another page. If you do not, your time will run out and your work on that page will be lost.
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Using Your Benefit Estimates
As your statement will show, your Social Security retirement benefits will vary depending on when you claim them before or after your full retirement age . The longer you wait to start receiving payments, the higher your benefit amount will be.
However, it’s not always better to wait until your full retirement age to claim your Social Security benefits. If you need your Social Security benefits for living expenses, or you have a health condition that makes it unlikely that you will live past age 75 or so, you may be better off collecting your benefits sooner rather than later. You can use a calculator at the Social Security website to see which retirement age makes the most financial sense for you .
For comprehensive practical information about how and when to claim Social Security benefits, see Social Security, Medicare & Government Pensions, by Joseph Matthews with Dorothy Matthews Berman .
How Cola Increases Evolved Over Time
Each year, the SSA announces any increases to Social Security benefits, known as COLA, to help recipients keep up with rising prices. The increases are tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers , which is the official measure of the monthly price change in goods and services. Annually, the SSA compares the CPI-W for the third quarter of the previous year and current year to determine the COLA increase.
While COLA adjustments are now automatic, this was not always the case. Beneficiaries received their first COLA adjustment in October 1950. A second increase was made in September 1952 through legislation. For the next 20 years, recipients only saw their benefits increase if Congress approved it.
In 1972, Congress passed legislation to provide automatic increases linked to a rise in consumer prices. Recipients would no longer have to wait for Congress to take action to receive an increase. The first automatic increases to Social Security benefits took effect in 1975. After 1982, COLA adjustments were effective for December of each year and received by beneficiaries in January.
Here is a history of COLA increases from 1975 to 2021:
|Social Security Cost-Of-Living Adjustments|
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What Is A Social Security Card
Your Social Security card is an important piece of identification. You’ll need one to get a job, collect Social Security, or receive other government benefits.
When you apply for a Social Security number , the Social Security Administration will assign you a nine-digit number. This is the same number that is printed on the Social Security card that SSA will issue you. If you change your name, you will need to get a corrected card.
How Can I Get A Social Security Statement That Shows A Record Of My Earnings And An Estimate Of My Future Benefits
You can get your personal Social Security Statement online by using your mySocial Security account. If you dont yet have an account, you can easily create one. Your online Statement gives you secure and convenient access to your earnings records. It also shows estimates for retirement, disability and survivors benefits you and your family may be eligible for. To set up or use your account to get your online Social Security Statement, go to . We also mail paper Statements to workers age 60 and older three months before their birthday if they dont receive Social Security benefits and dont yet have a mySocial Security account. Workers who dont want to wait for their scheduled mailing can request their Social Security Statement by following these instructions. The Statement will arrive by mail in four to six weeks.
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You Or Your Family Members May Be Eligible For Increased Benefits
Our mission is to deliver Social Security services that meet the changing needs of the public.
It’s not unusual for a benefit recipient’s circumstances to change after they apply or became eligible for benefits. If you, or a family member, receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income , certain life changes may affect eligibility for an increase in your federal benefits. For example, if your spouse or ex-spouse dies, you may become eligible for a higher Social Security benefit.
To find out if you, or a family member, might be eligible for a benefit based on another persons work, or a higher benefit based on your own work, see the information about benefits on the Social Security website. You can also use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to find out if you could get benefits that Social Security administers. Based on your answers to questions, this tool will list benefits for which you might be eligible and tell you more information about how to qualify and apply.
The questions and answers below are about a few of the life changes that could possibly increase your benefits.
How Much Social Security Will I Get
Social Security benefits are based on your lifetime earnings. Your actual earnings are adjusted or indexed to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then, the SSA calculates your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. The SSA applies a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit, or primary insurance amount. This is how much you would receive at your full retirement age 65 or older, depending on your date of birth. You can increase your benefits by waiting until age 70 to begin taking benefits.
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How Is Social Security Calculated
To determine your monthly benefits, the Social Security Administration uses a series of somewhat complicated calculations. At their heart is an inflation-adjusted average of your monthly income from your highest earning years.
This monthly average is run through an income replacement formula that determines your base monthly Social Security payment rate in retirement. This base rate will then be adjusted upward or downward depending on a few factors, like your age when you start claiming Social Security benefits, your employment status in retirement, your tax bracket and your Medicare premiums.
If that sounds overly complex, dont fret. Heres how each part of the Social Security calculation breaks down.
What Else Affects Your Retirement Benefits
Everyones retirement is unique. Beyond deciding when to begin receiving retirement benefits, other factors that can affect your benefits include whether you continue to work, what type of job you had, and if you have a pension from certain jobs.
Continuing To Work
You can choose to keep working beyond your full retirement age. If you do, you can increase your future Social Security benefits. Each extra year you work adds another year of earnings to your earnings record. Higher lifetime earnings can mean higher benefits when you choose to receive benefits.
Specific Types Of Earnings
While Social Security earnings are calculated the same way for most American workers, there are some types of earnings that have additional rules:
- Farm Work
If You’re Not Sure Why You Received A Payment
Contact the authorizing agency directly to find out why they sent the payment. You may be able to find the authorizing agency in the memo line of the check. View this diagram of a sample Treasury check to help you locate the authorizing agency contact information on your own check. Scroll about half way down the page to see the diagram.
If you’re unable to find which agency authorized the payment, . They can help you determine which government agency you need to contact. To find which RFC you need to call, look for its city and state at the top center of the check.
Use the Treasury Check Verification System to verify that the check is legitmate and issued by the government.