retirement

How Much Will I Get From Social Security When I Retire?

Here are a couple of ways to estimate the amount of your monthly benefit check in retirement.

How are Social Security benefits calculated, and how do I find out how much I will get when I retire?

See Our Slide Show: 10 Things You Must Know About Social Security

Your Social Security benefits are based on the number of years you’ve worked in jobs covered by Social Security, the amount you earned each year and your age when you start taking benefits. The size of your benefit is based on your 35 highest-paid years when you start to receive benefits. That means if you’ve already worked for 35 years or more, taking a part-time job for the last few years before you sign up for Social Security won’t reduce your benefits.

You can start taking benefits anytime from age 62 to age 70. The older you are when you start, the higher your monthly payouts will be. The "full retirement age" is 66 for people born from 1943 to 1954, then it gradually increases by a few months each year until it reaches 67 for people born in 1960 or later (see Find Your Full Retirement Age for more information). The maximum benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age in 2015 is $2,663 per month. If your full retirement age is 66, your payouts will be reduced by 25% if you start taking benefits at age 62 instead (your payouts may also be clipped by the "earnings test" if you are working and receiving benefits before your full retirement age). On the other hand, delaying benefits past your full retirement age will boost your annual benefits by 8% for every year you wait until age 70. See Best Strategies to Boost Your Social Security Benefits for more information about choosing the best age to start receiving benefits.

You generally need to work for 10 years to qualify for benefits (unless you’re receiving benefits through a spouse -- see How Spouses Can Maximize Social Security Benefits for more information). The maximum earnings that count toward your benefit are $118,500 in 2015. Payouts are adjusted each year for inflation -- the increase was 1.7% in 2015. See History of Automatic Cost-of-Living Adjustments for a list of the annual increases since 1975.

You can use the Social Security Quick Calculator to estimate your benefits by providing basic information about your earnings and retirement date. For a more precise figure, use the Social Security Retirement Estimator, which estimates your benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record (although your payouts may be different if your earnings increase or decrease in the future).

For more information, see our Social Security Special Report and the Social Security Administration publication Understanding the Benefits.

See Our Slide Show: Do You Know the Best Social Security Claiming Strategies?

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