How to Estimate Your Social Security Benefits

There are a few tools you can use to calculate your Social Security benefits, including signing up for a my Social Security account.

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The best way to estimate your Social Security benefits is to sign up for a my Social Security account. The Social Security Administration used to mail benefit statements every five years to workers between the ages of 25 and 60 and then annually until they started taking benefits. But since 2011, the agency has cut back on mailing statements. It now only sends paper statements to workers who are at least 60 years old and have not yet signed up for a my Social Security account. The statements are sent about three months before your birthday.

For those who have an account, you will receive an email about three months before your birthday reminding you to review your online statement.

The benefit estimate provided in the statement is based on your past earnings and a projection of your future income, which assumes your income will remain at the same level as the previous year until you retire. You could get more than the estimate if you end up earning more in the future or less if your income drops. The statement provides an estimate if you continue working until age 62, your full retirement age and age 70.

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The statement also includes an estimate for survivor benefits for your family and what you would receive each month if you became disabled and started taking disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration also provides an online retirement benefits calculator. This tool accesses your Social Security records so you will need to provide information such as your date of birth and Social Security number. Keep in mind, this is just an estimate and your benefits could change based on your future income.

You can also use the Social Security quick calculator to estimate your benefits. The tool does not have access to your earnings history so this one relies on information you provide. Because of that, this estimate may be less accurate.

Senior Retirement Editor, Kiplinger.com

Jackie Stewart is the senior retirement editor for Kiplinger.com and the senior editor for Kiplinger's Retirement Report.