How to Check Your Social Security Benefit Amount — and Why It’s So Important

Do you know how much Social Security you’ll get when you retire? If not, you are not alone. According to a 2022 survey by the Nationwide Retirement Institute, around 44% of US adults don’t know how much to expect from Social Security.

Not knowing your future benefit levels can make retirement difficult and can also affect your savings. Luckily, checking your benefit amount is easy — and can potentially lead to a more financially secure retirement.

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How to check your Social Security benefit amount

You are entitled to Social Security benefits at age 62, but to receive the full amount of benefits you are entitled to you must wait until your Full Retirement Age (FRA) before you can start claiming. Depending on your year of birth, your FRA is between 66 and 67 years.

The amount you get at your FRA depends on the length of your career and your salary.

To calculate your benefit amount, the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates an average of your earnings over the 35 highest earnings years of your career. This number is then adjusted for inflation and the result is the amount you receive when you submit it to your FRA.

Even if you’re years away from retirement, you can still check your estimated benefit amount by checking your Social Security statements online. To do this, you need to create a mySocialSecurity account. From there you can see an estimate of your future benefits based on your actual income.

Make retirement planning easier

Knowing how much to expect from Social Security will make planning for retirement easier.

Social Security benefits are designed to replace only around 40% of a worker’s pre-retirement earnings. That means you’ll likely need another source of income (such as an annuity or personal retirement plan) to fill the gap.

Once you have a more accurate estimate of how much you will receive in benefits, you can determine if your savings are on track. And the earlier you check your benefit level, the more time you have to adjust your pension plan if necessary.

Simple steps to increasing your Social Security benefits

If you find that you’re not receiving as much as you expect from Social Security, there are some steps you can take to increase the size of your monthly checks:

  • Work for at least 35 years: If you have many years to go before you retire, your pension amount will seem smaller simply because you have a large part of your career ahead of you. However, because the SSA calculates your benefits based on the 35 highest-earning years of your career, it’s wise to make sure you’ve worked at least 35 full years before you start maximizing your checks.
  • Extend your career: Even if you’ve had a long career, you’re probably making more today than you were 35 years ago. Working just a year or two longer ensures you have more years of higher income, on average, when the SSA calculates your benefits, resulting in a higher monthly benefit.
  • Delay entitlement to benefits: By submitting to your FRA, you will receive your full benefit amount based on your employment records. But if you delay your pension for a few years (until age 70), you’ll get your full pension plus up to 32% extra every month.

Saving for retirement is difficult, but knowing how much Social Security you can expect can make it easier. By examining your pension amount now, you can set yourself up for a financially secure retirement.

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