How much Social Security will I get?

Every year you work, a portion of your income goes toward Social Security payroll taxes. By the time you retire, you could have paid thousands of dollars into Social Security. But how much will you get every month after you retire?

This guide breaks down how Social Security works plus how to estimate your monthly Social Security benefits.

Key takeaways

  • Social Security benefits might replace pre-retirement salary and can be an important part of retirement plans.
  • Benefits depend on factors like date of birth, years worked and earnings history.
  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates total benefits by adjusting past earnings for inflation, generating an average monthly income and putting that number into an insurance formula.

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How does Social Security work?

Social Security retirement benefits are intended to replace part of people’s salaries after they stop working. The exact amount people receive depends on factors like how much they earned over their lifetimes and their age when they started using the benefits.

As you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn “credits” toward your benefits, according to the SSA. These credits are added to your record and increase every year you work. 

If you were born after 1928, you’ll need at least 40 credits—or about 10 working years—to claim benefits when you turn 62, the earliest age to claim Social Security benefits. If you don’t reach 40 credits, you may still be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, though your monthly payout will likely be lower.

How to estimate Social Security benefits

There are several ways you can estimate Social Security payments, but some may be more accurate than others. These methods are:

  • Creating a Social Security account. The SSA offers a free online portal, known as my Social Security, that allows you to review earnings reports and estimate future benefits. 
  • Using the SSA’s online benefits calculator. The SSA offers several online retirement calculators you can use to estimate your benefits. But keep in mind, these are rough estimates based on your earnings history and may differ from your future payouts.
  • Visiting a local SSA office. While the SSA recommends using its site for help, you could also visit the closest office to get an estimate of future benefits. But like an online calculator, it’s important to take this estimate with a grain of salt. It doesn’t consider changes in income that could affect your retirement benefits.
  • Manually estimating your Social Security earnings. Calculating your Social Security retirement benefits manually requires a bit of math. Essentially, you adjust your wages for inflation, then input them into the Social Security benefits formula.

Factors that affect Social Security retirement benefits

The amount of your monthly Social Security check depends on multiple factors. Here are a few: 

  • Birth year: Your birth year affects when you’re eligible to receive Social Security benefits. The earliest you can receive benefits is at age 62.
  • Retirement age: The age you decide to retire or access benefits can increase or decrease your Social Security payments. For example, the full retirement age is 67 for anyone born in or after 1960. So retiring at age 62 would reduce your benefits until you turn 67. But retiring late—or after your full retirement age—can increase your monthly payments.
  • Income history: Your Social Security check is based on your earnings history. The SSA looks at your 35 most profitable working years when calculating your index-adjusted salary. So having a higher income and working consistently may increase your monthly payments. The SSA counts years outside the workforce as “zero years,” which may lower your benefit amount.

Social Security benefits FAQ

One easy way to check your Social Security status is to create a my Social Security account. There you’ll find your earnings record and additional information to help you plan for retirement.

The SSA considers factors like your earnings history, birth year, retirement age and cost-of-living adjustments when calculating your monthly benefits.

If you were born after 1960, you would receive roughly 86.67% of your primary insurance amount, according to the SSA. The amount increases if you were born before 1960.

The maximum monthly Social Security benefit varies depending how old you are when you retire or begin receiving benefits. According to the SSA, the maximum benefit for someone retiring at their full retirement age in 2022 is $3,345. Retiring at age 62 in 2022 reduces the maximum amount to $2,364. But retiring at age 70 in 2022 increases the maximum payment to $4,194.

Social Security retirement benefits in a nutshell

Being aware of your potential Social Security retirement benefits can be an important part of retirement planning. And it could be a part of meeting your retirement goals.

For instance, if you know you’ll receive a certain amount of money each month once you reach the eligible retirement age, you might want to adjust your savings plans accordingly. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this guide on how to start saving for retirement to kick-start your plans today.

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