4 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

Deciding when to start receiving your retirement benefits from Social Security is a decision that only you can make, and you should make that decision with as much information as possible. There are a lot of important questions to answer.

Should you claim benefits earlier and get a smaller monthly payment for more years? Or should you wait and get a bigger monthly amount over a shorter period?

There are no right or wrong answers, but we encourage you to consider these four important questions as you plan for your financially secure retirement:

How much money will I need to live comfortably in retirement?

Anticipate what your expenses will be in retirement, including things like mortgage payments or rent, utilities, healthcare insurance and related costs, food, personal care, car payments and maintenance, entertainment, hobbies, travel, and credit card or other debt. Also, consider whether you’ll need to provide for your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

What will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit be?

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2018 is $1,404 (up from $1,377 in 2017). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2018 is $1,197 (up from $1,173 in 2017). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about 10 years of work). The Social Security Act details how the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is calculated. You can read more about the COLA on our website. The best way to get an estimate of your retirement benefit is with a my Social Security account. Get yours today.

Will I have other income to supplement my Social Security benefits?

Secure your financial future with a retirement portfolio that includes savings, investments, and possibly a pension plan. If you’re willing and able, you may choose to increase your income by working past retirement age. Social Security replaces a percentage of a worker’s pre-retirement income based on your lifetime earnings. The amount of your average wages that Social Security retirement benefits replaces varies depending on your earnings and when you choose to start benefits. If you start benefits at age 67, this percentage ranges from as much as 75 percent for very low earners, to about 40 percent for medium earners, to about 27 percent for high earners. If you start benefits after age 67, these percentages would be higher. If you start benefits earlier, these percentages would be lower. Most financial advisers say you will need about 70 percent of pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement, including your Social Security benefits, investments, and other savings.

How long do I expect my retirement to last?

Anticipate the length of your retirement, keeping in mind that many American workers will live much longer than the “average” retiree. Consider your health, family longevity, and lifestyle. Your Social Security retirement benefits will provide continuous income for as long as you live, protecting you even if your other sources of income run out. Discover your life expectancy with our online calculator.

No one can predict the future perfectly, but careful planning and preparation will help you to make a well-informed decision about when to start receiving your Social Security benefits.

If you’ve contributed enough to the Social Security system through FICA payroll taxes, you can receive your full retirement benefit at age 66 or 67 depending on when you were born. You may also claim it sooner, starting at age 62, at a permanently reduced rate. Or you may wait until after your full retirement age, increasing your benefit amount by up to 8 percent per full year to age 70.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, and we’re here to help you prepare for a financially secure future for you and your family. We invite you to use our online retirement planners.

To learn more about all of our programs, please visit us.

Join us on Facebook Live with USAgov on 1/30 at 7 P.M. ET as we chat about retirement.

Note: The closed captioned version will be available within one week after the broadcast.


90 thoughts on “4 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

    • Representatives at our toll free number 1-800-772-1213 are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later during the week. Thanks!


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  2. I plan on retiring at the end of this year. I will be 66 1/2. I want to know if that is a good day 12/31/18 & will I receive my first SS Check that Jan 2019? If I waited another day to get my work holiday pay would that infringe on getting my Jan SS check?

  3. I have received letter from your office tell me that you send me a benefits check and the check return back to your office,the address was wrong.
    All my monthly payments send to me wiring by bank of Jordan,and you have my account number,
    Please send back my benefits amount through the bank of Jordan.
    My account number
    Bank of Jordan
    My mailing address
    P O BOX 142848
    Amman Jordan 11814
    Tell number*********
    Thank you very much

  4. How many credits do I have now? Do I get any credits if I was married to someone paying into social security? Why am I being penalised for deciding not to have an abortion and marry and have children at a young age?Having kids prevented me from furthering my education and forced me to take jobs involving cash, such as waitressing and cleaning houses. I real that the system is designed to deprive woman from a decent existence. Anyway I am trying to salvage my social security benefits and I would like to know how much better off I would be if I worked a job for 1 year (projected) and then applied for benefits. Can I get medical insurance through social security?

  5. I have been receiving disability check since 2008 do I still have to see about retirement or is disability the same. I stopped working on 2008 I am not familiar with how the system of SS works

    • Hello Norma! We automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits when you reach your full retirement age. Disability payments are established at the highest rate possible, and we use the highest years of your earnings to calculate your monthly benefit amount.
      We do not base your Social Security benefit amount on the severity of your disability. We base it on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. We hope this information helps.

  6. General question. I’m getting SS. I also have a PT job and am paying SS taxes on my earnings. How will I benefit from these taxes in the future? Will my SS payments increase accordingly each year, beyond standard COLA increases? I paid over $900 in SS taxes last year, over $400 the year before and will probably pay more than $1100 this year. Will I ever actually see any additional benefit in paying that much extra? Thank you.

    • Some individuals may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which they live. These services include Medicaid, free meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office.
      Or you can visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information. We hope this helps!

  7. Most people need to plan far ahead for retirement because even with 2 good long careers a retired couple needs much more than SS to keep a good income flow!

  8. I will be 65 this year. My full retirement is 66. If I wait until next year can I file benefits under my husband’s social security and postpone drawing off mine.

    • Hi Cecilia, if you were born before January 2, 1954 and apply for benefits when you reach your full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.
      See our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information.

  9. Social Security told me that if you have prescription coverage with your company then don’t get part B, but when I plan to retire from work i’ll get the part B.

  10. I’ll be 62 this year. My husband wants me to sign up on his SS. I will only be getting a little over $500.00 a month. ????, If I out live him, will I get a raise on my SS?

    • Thank you for your question Elena. Yes, you will be allowed to work.
      Keep in mind that if you’re receiving disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, those benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits when you attain your full retirement age. If you work and are full retirement age or older, the amount you make at work will not affect your Social Security benefits, no matter how much you earn.
      You can return to work while receiving disability benefits. We have special rules to help you get back to work without jeopardizing your disability benefits. However, your earnings cannot exceed a certain amount. This is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. In 2018, the SGA limit is $1,180 per month (or $1,970 for blind applicants). In addition to the amount of money you make, Social Security may also look at the number of hours you’re able to work. We hope this information helps.

  11. Why is what being said on this site end up on facebook for the whole web. You need better safe grauds on this site. So now I see this is not for the people at all. This is a joke.

  12. My name is Anthony Nguyen, my SSN# *** – ** – ***. I just start earning my social security benefit, My question is: why do i need to report your office whenever I go outside the USA for 30 consecutive days or longer?
    Thank you for answer my question.
    Sincerely yours!
    Anthony Nguyen

  13. My name is Anthony Nguyen. My SSN# *** – ** – ***. I just start earning my Social Security benefit, My question is: Why do I need to report whenever I go outside the USA for 30 consecutive days or longer ?
    Thank you for answer my question, you can reply by my e-mail address or call me at 1-503-799-7250
    Sincerely yours!
    Anthony Nguyen

    • Hello Anthony! We do not have access to personal information, therefore, we do not do direct messaging in this venue.
      If you receive benefits from Social Security, you have a legal obligation to report changes, which could affect your eligibility for disability, retirement, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
      We recommend that individuals living outside the United States contact their local U.S. embassy or consulate for any assistance related to Social Security programs and benefits. Also, our Office of International Operations home page provides more information to assist our customers living abroad.
      Just a reminder – Please be cautious about posting personal information on social media and communicating personal information via email, thanks.

  14. whatever you do do NOT use the Social security web site to file for your benefits! I applied for spousal benefits and my wife applied for her own benefits at age 62 – 6 months. I was filing at my full retirement age but am not planning to start drawing my social security until I turn 70. This was all to start in November 2017.

    What they set us up for was for me to get my normal retirement (at age 66) and my wife to get hers and spousal benefits based on mine.

    This still has not been corrected over three months later. They finally stopped paying me and benefits but keep paying my wife spousal benefits based on me social security. Looks like it will be MONTHS more before it gets corrected! Also I have to pay 2017 taxes on social security income that I will eventually have to return to them when they get this nightmare straightened out.

    My advise is NOT TO USE their web site for filing for your benefits.

  15. My question is can I draw off my husband ? He is younger than I am and If not… if I draw now can I change when he retires

  16. I wish to ask which laws applied to legal resident compare to citizens when it comes to deal with retirement. I also would like to know where can I find more Information on the subject or if you can provide it.

  17. I am planing for retirement in January 2019. Can I get 50% from my husband’s SSR (he is 67 years old) when I stop working at 66 years old and not apply for myself?

  18. I am on SSI Disability, I have not had my medicine over a year, I have Huntington, medicine cost $6,00.00 a month. Can I get on Medicaid, to help me.

    • Hi Robert. You may be eligible to receive additional assistance from the state where you live. These services include Medicaid, free meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office. You can also visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information. We hope this information helps.

  19. I have a question about married couples and Social Security. If I collect at age 62. Does my wife need to be a certain age before she collects? Can she collect at 65? It still not her full retirement age.

  20. My x husband of 30 years is now collecting ss and I have my own. I was told by ss employee that he makes more than I do and I might benefit to get part of his. Please inform.. I have his SS # if you need it. Thank you.

    • Hello Andrea. Generally, if you qualify to receive benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. If the benefit on your ex-spouse’s record is higher, you will get an additional amount so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.
      Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot assist you.
      To see if you’re eligible for a higher benefit mount on your ex-spouse’s record you will need to speak with one of our representatives. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

  21. Both my wife and I plan to retire at age 65 in one year. What options do we have to maximize our combined social security benefit if we retire at the same time?

    • Hi Iris, we prefer a government issued document with your picture, as proof of identity to replace your Social Security card. If you do not have one or you cannot get one within a reasonable amount of time, we may be able to use other documents such as:
      •Employee identification card;
      •School identification card;
      •Health insurance card; or
      •U.S. military identification card.
      Any document you submit, must be an original or certified copy, current (not expired) and show your name, and other identifying information (date of birth or age).
      Also, realize that you may not need a replacement card. You will rarely need to show it. Knowing your Social Security number is what is important.
      To see if you’re eligible to apply for a replacement Social Security card online or to learn more on the process and what documents you will need to get a card, please visit our “Social Security Number and Card” web page. When ready, you can take or mail your application with your documents to the local Social Security office or the nearest Card Center in your area. Any documents you submit with your application will be returned to you. We hope this information helps!

  22. I am divorced was married more than 30 years. He was in the Army. Can i collect his SS? How do i find out his amount vs. Mine?

  23. Thanks for this site really certainly will help me and others in the process,it feels secure(?) simple and easy to read very helpful
    Thanks again

  24. I’m still confused about what I’ll get when I retire at 62 or if and when my husband ever passes away what I would get it’s not clear on line in layman terms for me to understand this…sorry.
    Right now I just turned 59 I get disability benefits of 900… my first question is when I’m 62 well I get retirement benefits also along with my disability benefit?
    My husband will be 70 this year. God forbid, but If & when he passes away well I keep my disability/retirement and also get his benefit or will they deduct my disability/retirement from his check his check is double mine right now. Also his Social Security Retiremant check is taxed… well I continue to be taxed when it comes over to me as a Widowers benefit? I hope you can revamp your site to explain this part of it a little clearer. Thank you for listening have a great day 🌷

    • Hello, Susan. First, the earliest age a person can apply for reduced retirement benefits is 62. Age 62 is -also- the age in which you may be able to get spouse’s retirement benefits, if your spouse is already receiving retirement benefits. You will have to check with us to see if you qualify for a higher -monthly- benefit amount at that time.
      Second, Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries attain their full retirement age. The benefit amount remains the same.
      Generally survivor’s benefits are paid at a higher rate, and a disabled widow can start receiving benefits at age 50 or older. However, if you already receive benefits, on your own record, you can only apply for benefits as a widow if the benefit you receive is less than the benefits you would receive as a survivor. You will also need to contact a Social Security claims representative about your options.
      It is possible for a person to be eligible to more than one benefit at the same time. However, we are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either records – meaning that you will only be allowed to receive one payment.
      Finally, some people have to pay federal income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if you have other substantial income (such as wages, self-employment, and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return) in addition to your Social Security benefits. For further income tax questions, you will need to contact the IRS. Their toll-free number is 1-800-829-1040. We hope this information provides some clarity. Thanks!

  25. I turn 66 June 9th. I am thinking about claiming by benefit then. Can you tell me how much it will be? I live in Lancaster Wis can I get an appointment at that office to talk to someone?

    • Hi Betty, our Retirement Estimator gives estimates of monthly Social Security benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record.
      We have a variety of calculators to help you plan for the future. Which calculator you choose depends on what you want to do. We suggest that you create a my Social Security account. With your personal my Social Security account, you can verify your earnings, get your Social Security Statement, and much more. Happy planning!

  26. My name is Xavier Pino with SS *** – ** – *** but currently living and working in Ecuador. So far I have 25 credits, how can accumulate the rest of my credits to be able to retire some day.
    How can I contribute to the SS from Ecuador in order to gain my benefits.
    Please help me with a solution, I’ll be very grateful
    Xavier Pino

    • Hello Xavier. Generally, you will need to have 40 credits, or 10 years of work paying Social Security taxes, to qualify for any type of Social Security benefit. Read our publication, “How You Earn Credits” for more information.
      Just a reminder – Please be cautious about posting personal information on any social media channels. Thanks!

    • Hello Judy. A widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security can receive reduced benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled). Thanks!

  27. I am not sure how many quarters I have and need to know how I find out? I can not find the number in my account, if I have enough I would like to retire.

    • Thank you for your question, Neri. Generally, you need to have immigration lawful status to receive Social Security benefits. You may qualify for retirement benefits if you have the number of “credits” required. You can receive your benefits while in the United States and perhaps even if you move abroad. See our Frequently Asked Questions web page titled “Noncitizens“.

  28. I have attempted several times ro talk to someone in person by phone.I have been on hold as long as two hours and then gave up and hung up the phone.
    What do you recommend ? I have several questions
    that are uncommon,therefore an social security advisor is
    needed.Help please!

    • We are sorry to hear that you are having difficulty reaching us, Marie. Our phone lines are busiest early in the week and early in the month. When calling, you will generally have a shorter wait time if you call later in the day or later in the week. Representatives at our toll free number 1-800-772-1213 are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. You can try to make an appointment with your local Social Security office if necessary.
      The Social Security Administration is committed to keeping the public informed about Social Security programs and the services we offer. Our goal is to provide helpful information to as many people as possible. Through our Blog and Facebook page, we respond to questions and provide general information on our Retirement, Survivors, Disability, Medicare and SSI programs. We ask that you do not post your personal information in social media channels. Thanks!

  29. I’m suppose to start receiving my SS money this September. I’ll be 66. Do I need to do anything between now and September?

    • Hi Lorna, everybody must “officially” apply for their Social Security benefits.
      Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance to when you want your benefits to begin. When ready, you can apply for your benefits online. Remember that benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if you want your benefits to begin with the month of September, you will receive your first benefit payment in October.
      Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information.
      In April we celebrate “National Social Security Month“, see what you can do online at http://www.SocialSecurity.gov. Thanks!

  30. I had a colonoscopy about a month ago. I’m still under my husbands insurance through his job and I also have my Medicare A card. Medicare paid nothing towards this medical procedure. It was a preventative procedure as my father died from colon cancer. I thought that as long as I had a primary insurance such as my husbands and Medicare was my secondary that I would be covered by Medicare, but nope….nothing!!! My question is: What does this one card do for me if anything?

  31. After the age of 66, do I get prorated credit for working past my retirement age if it’s less than a full year. For example, if I retire at 66 1/2 do I get credit for that half year toward my benefit?

  32. hola buenas noches …………….yo no hablo ingles ……..
    pero quiero saber……….yo aplique por benficios en febrero de este año……….y ha este momento no me consignan ….o me pagan mis beneficios……
    mi nombre… luis f candamil villegas..
    mi social…*** – ** – ***
    mi direccion …1329 caey glen cir..orlando florida..
    yo sali de vacaciones …y por este motivo no lo he podido hacer personalmente…..
    atte luis f candamil

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