Social Security Your Coverage Options

What will your Social Security benefits be when you retire?

Written by Diane Archer

What will your Social Security benefit be when you retire? Knowing how much you will receive from Social Security can help with your retirement planning. Two-thirds of Americans rely on Social Security for most of their income in retirement, and one third rely on it for virtually all (90 percent or more) of their retirement income.

The Social Security Administration cannot tell you exactly what you will get.  But, it has a calculator that will provide you an estimate. What you receive depends on the average of your top 35 earnings years, as well as on the age at which you choose to claim Social Security.

You can sign up to get benefits before the full retirement age (age 66 today, i.e. for those born between 1943 and 1954, and rising to age 67 for those born in 1960 or later). But your benefit will be reduced by around 6 percent for each year you retire prior to your full retirement age — up to a 25 percent reduction if you retire at age 62, the earliest possible age you can claim benefits. If you wait until after your full retirement age to claim benefits, your benefit is increased by 8 percent per year — up to a 24 percent increase if you wait till age 70.

Your benefits will be protected against inflation by cost-of-living increases. And, of course, if Congress changes the Social Security Act, that could affect your benefits as well.  In January 2015, the average estimated monthly benefit for a retired worker was just over $1300 and just over $2100 for a retired couple.

To qualify for benefits, you need at least 40 credits of earnings, i.e. 10 years of either working four quarters or paying enough into Social Security during the year to satisfy the four-quarters requirement. To understand how credits are calculated, click here. Or, you might qualify based on the earnings record of a current or divorced spouse (if the marriage lasted 10 years or longer).

Click here to use the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Estimator; SSA also provides calculators to estimate survivors or disability benefits. And the AARP has a calculator to help you decide when to sign up for benefits.

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U.S. offers stingy Social Security retirement benefits



  • In addition, you may sign up for benefits when reaching full retirement age (66 for me) with no penalties for amount earned, and Social Security reevaluates benefit amount you will receive each year that you continue to work. However, a portion of your Social Security benefits are taxable. This is another option for those who need the extra earnings and it will help raise amount of benefits received once retired or can no longer work. It’s also a good way to save a little more for eventual retirement.

  • I am on disability survivors insurance and I have read that there will be no more social security in 2036 when I am 64, so that means all of those who are on disability will be homeless and out on the street? I don’t understand. Please let me know if that’s true I am trying to save money from the little I receive so that I am not homeless. I have no family.

  • Teachers and some other government workers are denied the SS benefits they have earned
    and also denied widows benefits in 37 states. The government’s GPO and WEP calls these folks ‘double dippers’ although they’ve paid their quarters. Some Americans are more equal than others.

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