What does AARP’s Social Security Benefits Calculator do?
The calculator provides an estimate of your Social Security benefits, based on your earnings history and age. Our tool also helps you see what percentage of daily expenses your payments can cover, and how you can increase your benefits by waiting to collect. It can also tell you how your retirement earnings will be affected if you keep working after you claim your Social Security benefit.
How does the calculator estimate my retirement benefits payment?
Our simplified estimate is based on two main data points: your age and average earnings. Your retirement benefit is based on how much you’ve earned over your lifetime at jobs for which you paid Social Security taxes. Your monthly retirement benefit is based on your highest 35 years of salary history. You can get your earnings history from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Your Social Security benefit also depends on how old you are when you take it. You can start collecting at age 62, the minimum retirement age, but you’ll get a bigger monthly payment if you wait until full retirement age, which is 66 but is gradually moving to 67 for people born in 1960 or after. If you can wait until 70 to start collecting, you’ll receive your maximum monthly benefit.
A single person born in 1960 who has averaged a $50,000 salary, for example, would get $1,332 a month by retiring at 62 — the earliest to start collecting. The same person would get $1,911 by waiting until age 67, full retirement age. And he or she would get $2,370, the maximum benefit on those earnings, by waiting until age 70. Payments don’t increase if you wait to collect past 70.
Your marital status can also be a factor. For example, if you were divorced after 10 years of marriage, you may be able to base your Social Security payments on your ex-spouse’s salary. This calculator estimates Social Security benefits for single people who have never been married, for married couples, and for divorced individuals whose marriage lasted at least 10 years and who have not remarried. Others should use the calculator as if they were single.
If you’re widowed, you may be entitled to survivor’s benefits. In most cases, you’re eligible if you’re at least 60 years old and were married at least nine months before your spouse died. The calculator does not calculate survivor benefits for widows or widowers. For this and other scenarios, consult the Social Security Administration website.
Other factors affecting the size of your benefit include whether you’ve worked for state or local government for more than 10 years; your Social Security payment may be decreased if you paid into the civil service retirement program, for example.
Who is eligible to collect Social Security retirement benefits?
Workers who are at least age 62 and who have worked at least 10 combined years at jobs for which they paid Social Security taxes are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. In many cases, spouses, widows and divorcees are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits based on a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s earnings history. Unmarried children 18 and younger (or 19 and under if a student) can also get survivor’s benefits. You must be a U.S. citizen or lawful alien to collect benefits.
How is Social Security funded?
Primarily through a payroll tax. The current tax rate for Social Security is 6.2 percent for the employer and 6.2 percent for the employee — 12.4 percent total. If you’re self-employed, you have to pay the entire amount. The government collects Social Security tax on wages up to $142,800 in 2021.
When should I start collecting Social Security?
Ultimately, the decision of when to begin collecting Social Security is one you have to make. It depends on your age, your health status, how much you spend and how much you have saved. It’s generally best to start collecting as late as you can, because you get a larger monthly payment, which is adjusted for inflation each year.
Consider a retiree who was born in 1950 and averaged $50,000 a year in salary. If she has $3,000 a month in expenses, her Social Security check would cover 48 percent of her expenses if she started Social Security at age 62. If she waited till age 70, her check would cover 84 percent of her expenses. Every year she delays retirement, her Social Security payout — which is adjusted annually for inflation — rises by about $1,635.
Traditionally, the retirement system in the U.S. has been a three-legged stool: Social Security, savings and pensions. Social Security was never intended to be the sole source of income for retirement. Increasingly, however, employers have been moving away from their employer-sponsored pension plans in favor of tax-deferred retirement savings accounts, such as 401(k) plans.
Can I use the calculator to figure out Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
No. SSDI is aimed at people who can’t work because they have a medical condition expected to last a year or more or result in death. Your SSDI benefits last only as long as you suffer from a significant medical impairment while not earning significant other income.
SSI is a separate program for people with little or no income or assets who are 65 or older, as well as for those of any age, including children, who are blind or who have disabilities. The maximum monthly SSI payment for 2021 is $794 for a single person and $1,191 for a couple. But some states add to that payment, and you may receive less than the maximum if you or your family has other income. Get more information about SSDI and SSI from the Social Security Administration.