How Much Will Your Social Security check be?
Social Security is a program of the federal government that provides retirement income for Americans older than 62 years old. The program also offers benefits for those who are disabled. The amount of Social Security you get depends on several factors, but most importantly, your age when you choose to start taking Social Security, and your income while working.
I want a better idea than that. I want to know how much Social Security will I get when I retire. Fortunately, there is an easy way to find out.
Qualifying for Social Security
As a government program, there are a million exceptions to every rule, but in general, in order to qualify for a Social Security benefit, you must have 40 work credits.
You earn a credit for each quarter you have wages or self-employment income on which you pay Social Security taxes. So, if you have been working for a state government that opts out of Social Security like Colorado does with its PERA pension program, or California does with its CALPERS, then your income doesn’t earn you credits.
You can earn up to four credits each year, and you need 40 credits to get a retirement benefit. Do some quick math, and basically, you have to work for 10 total years in order to qualify. It doesn’t have to be all together. If you worked five years and then were a stay-at-home dad for ten years and then you worked another five years, that will count as 40 credits.
How Much Does Social Security Pay?
Your Social Security benefit is based on your earnings. Higher income equals a higher benefit, up to a certain maximum. So, how do I find out how much Social Security I will get?
It is actually very easy to go to ssa.gov and find the My Social Security section. If you don’t have an account, you can create one by providing some information to verify your identity. Once you have an account just click on my benefit section and the Social Security Administration will pop up your exact benefit amount based on what information they have. (Usually, they will not have your most recent year of earnings in the calculation.)
Click on Your Social Security Statement and Fact Sheets for an even more detailed look that shows you how much you will get from Social Security based on retiring at different ages. For most of us, full retirement age is now 67, but you can start collecting Social Security as early as 62. If you have cancer or something, getting your benefit earlier might be the best move. If you’re healthy and all four of your grandparents lived to their 90s, maybe you want to consider if you want to wait and get a higher benefit.
No matter what you choose, knowing how much you can look forward to is an important part of retirement planning, especially as you get closer to actually retiring.
Brian Nelson is a former Certified Financial Planner and financial advisor. Since then, Brian has been writing about financial issues that affect Americans. His writing has been published in numerous financial publications and websites. You can find Brian’s professional freelance writing business at ArcticLlama.com