“You must already have enough work credits to qualify for benefits, in order to use the SSA Retirement Calculator. However, if you cannot use that calculator, you can probably use one of the other benefit calculators the SSA provides on their website.”
Very few people have enough money in their retirement savings to survive, without at least some help from Social Security. We pay into the Social Security system for 30 or 40 years or more through the money taken out of our paychecks. Therefore, we should be able to count on getting a monthly check when we retire. When planning for your retirement, one of the many things you must figure out is how you will pay your bills and living expenses. This posting discusses the subject of retirement planning basics – how to determine your Social Security benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) makes it easy to estimate how much money you will get from them when you retire, using their online Retirement Estimator. The number you get is only an estimate. If you make more or less money in the future or the laws change, your monthly check could be a different amount.
You must already have enough work credits to qualify for benefits to use the SSA Retirement Calculator. However, if you cannot use that calculator, you can probably use one of the other benefit calculators on the SSA website. These include:
- Life Expectancy Calculator, which helps you find a ballpark number on how long a person of your gender born in the year you were born is expected to live. This will give you a feel for how many years your money may need to last.
- Online Calculator, you can use to estimate the retirement or disability benefits you could receive, based on your date of birth and your complete earnings history. It is possible to estimate your future earnings until you retire. You can request your complete earnings history by using this form.
- Early or Late Retirement Calculator will let you play around with several “what if” scenarios. You can get an estimate of your monthly Social Security check if you retire at any of a wide range of ages, from early retirement to full retirement age to past full retirement age. It enables you to see how much it will affect your benefits, if you retire at 62 or 65 or 68 or 70 or later.
How the SSA Calculates Your SS Retirement Benefit
You must have at least 40 work credits to qualify for Social Security. You earn one work credit for every quarter (3 months) that you work enough hours at a job that takes money from your paycheck and sends it to Social Security. It takes ten years of working at this level to qualify for any Social Security retirement benefits. People without 40 work credits either continue working until they earn enough work credits or try to qualify on the work record of the current or former spouse.
If you have enough work credits to qualify, your monthly check will depend on your average earnings during your 35 highest-earning years and your age when you retire. If you did not work for at least 35 years, some years will have a zero for their earnings, which will affect your total average earnings.
For many years, 65 was full retirement age. The age is gradually increasing, so that for a person born in 1960 or later, the age of full retirement is 67. If this person retires early, her check will be lower than the standard amount. If she continues working past age 67, her monthly check will be higher than the standard amount, but only up to a point.
This posting discusses the general law. It is always best to talk with an elder law attorney in your area.
Social Security Administration. “Retirement Estimator.” (accessed October 23, 2017) https://www.ssa.gov/retire/estimator.html
Social Security Administration. “When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.” (accessed October 23, 2017) https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf
Social Security Administration. “Calculators: Life Expectancy.” (accessed October 23, 2017) https://www.ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.html
Social Security Administration. “Request for Social Security Earnings Information.” (accessed October 24, 2017) https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-7050.pdf