Knowing where you stand now with Social Security will pay off

beth kobliner For most people, Social Security is a mystery. We see that 6.2 percent deduction on our pay stubs and wonder: What does it mean for my financial future? The answers: A lot. And not enough.

After tax season, take a few minutes to go online and read your Social Security statement. Even if your retirement is 30 or 40 years away, you need to know where you stand now. The Government Accountability Office tells us that nearly a third of households with members ages 55 and up have no retirement savings plan or pension in place—zip. That means Social Security is the only post-retirement pay they’ll get – and the estimated average monthly benefit for retirees (as of 2017) is just $1,360. (See what I mean by “not enough”?)

And women (lucky us!) have special reasons to worry. In a survey released in December 2016, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reported that men claimed to have more than three times the retirement savings women have. Yes, it appears that the dreaded Pay Gap has a retired older cousin called the Retirement Gap. (Oh, and because women live longer than men, on average, you’ll probably need to save for two or three more years of retirement.)

To check up on your Social Security, log on to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/, and follow the instructions to view your Social Security Statement. It will show you how much you’re currently eligible for, depending on when you start receiving Social Security benefits. Your monthly benefit amount increases the longer you delay your retirement, up to age 70. People get a smaller monthly benefit if they take early retirement, at age 62, than they would get at full retirement age (67 for anyone born in 1960 or later). Keep working until you turn 70, and you’ll get quite a bit more each month in retirement. Your online Statement breaks it all down.

You can also find out the monthly amount you’re eligible for if you become disabled and can’t work – and whether your family qualifies for survivor benefits in the event of your death.

Confronting your Social Security status annually will give you a much-needed reality check. Could you survive on what the government will send to you each month? (The short answer: Don’t count on it.) How much – and how quickly – do you need to start saving in a 401(k) or IRA? (Hint: the maximum – now.)

So now you know. Social Security needs to be part of your annual financial checkup. Because inspecting the old safety net might inspire you to start saving now so you will have enough to fall back on in retirement.

 

The Social Security Administration thanks Beth for her guest blog on Social Security Matters. We do not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.

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99 thoughts on “Knowing where you stand now with Social Security will pay off

    • Hi JulieAnn, thanks for your question. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons, we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot assist you. For an explanation of your husband’s statement, he will need to call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  1. I need to know what I need to do to get 100% of my benefits if I am currently working for a company that does not pay into the SS system? I have worked with companies that did pay.

    • Hello Rhonda. For your security, we do not have access to any personal information via this blog. Please continue to work with your local field office with specific questions relating to your back pay. We hope this helps. Thanks

  2. I am retired, working part-time. My Social Security (SS) statement lists my SS income at age 66 in 5 months to be $1,866 monthly and $2,463 at age 70. I have good health, family longevity, and small pension. Online calculators and articles advise me to wait until age 70 to draw SS. The average COLA for the past 10 years is 1.36%. Currently living very frugal, drawing the highly monthly salary age at 70 of $2,463, will take 15 years (age 85) before my total life-time SS earnings exceeds age 62 income. Drawing at 66, I’ll get $90,864 total income over these next 5 years; whereas, waiting till 70 will yield only additional $45,860 total SS income–at age 90 (given I live that long). With increasing living costs/Medicare-inflation, please explain why waiting until 70 to draw SS is beneficial?

    • Hi Sandy, thank you for using our blog to ask your question. At Social Security, we’re often asked, “What’s the best age to start receiving retirement benefits?” The answer is that there’s not a single “best age” for everyone and, ultimately, it’s your choice. The most important thing is to make an informed decision. Base your decision about when to apply for benefits on your individual and family circumstances.

      As an individual, you have four basic choices when it comes to work and retirement. Consider the four options laid out in our benefit matrix to help you make the best decision for you.

      Our system is set up to take applications four months in advance, and when you’re ready, you can apply for your benefits online. If you need further assistance call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask to speak with one of our representatives, who are available Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

  3. I am 64 years old. I retired early at 61 to take care of elderly father. He passed over a year ago, and I am contemplating going OFF benefits, going back to work full time, and then waiting to retire at age 67. Can someone tell me what my earnings would be then if I then decide to retire for good?

    • Hi Tim. We are sorry to hear of your loss. You may be able to withdraw your Social Security claim if you do so within 12 months from the date you began receiving benefits. If you change your mind 12 months or more after you became entitled to benefits, you cannot withdraw your application. If you do withdraw your application, you will need to refund all of the benefits paid to you and your family members (if any). Please read the Retirement Planner: If You Change Your Mind, for more information. We hope this helps.

  4. I’m 62 applying for SS benefits , I was Married for fifteen years I divorce over two years ago , my ex wife is not an American citizen And she has no SS number and never work in the USA , can she claim
    Benefits on my account or work record , since she did not have one?

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