AARP's Social Security Q&A Tool

How are Social Security benefits calculated?

En español | When you apply for benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) looks at how much you earned during your highest-paid 35 years of work. (If you worked for fewer years, say, 30, the other five will be counted as zeroes.)  SSA will calculate an average of your earnings and use that to figure out how much you will receive in benefits each month.  Generally, the formulas replace a higher portion of income for low-income workers than for high-income ones.  If you continue to work after beginning retirement benefits, Social Security will look at your earnings record once a year.  If the earnings from a new year of work is higher than the lowest of the years used to calculate your benefit, the new year will replace the lower-earning year (or zero) in your record and may increase your benefits.

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