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American workers pay about 6% of their wages into social security over the course of their career. For this reason, it is natural to be concerned about whether you will see a return on that investment.

To get an estimate of your social security benefits in retirement, use our free social security calculator. Got questions? We are here to help. Check out this guide to learn what to expect from your social security payments.


What can this calculator do?

Knowing what your social security payments will be is challenging. If you need help understanding your payments, use our social security benefits calculator to get more information. It's a great tool to get a more complete picture of your financial situation in retirement.

Getting Started

To get started, you will need to add a few details about yourself like your age, earnings, when you'd like to retire and more. The calculator then determines the annual income you're likely to receive from the program.

Your Results

Keep in mind, the amount you actually receive may vary depending on your tenure, total lifetime contributions, and the state of the economy. It's best to view your results as an estimate, or ballpark figure, to assist with your retirement planning.

What is social security?

Sometimes social security is referred to as an "entitlement program," a term that describes government programs that provide financial assistance.

In reality, this is a bit of a misnomer when applied to social security. This is because social security is actually a program that workers pay into, and the money retirees receive is based on their contributions.

As stated earlier, workers contribute 6.2% of their income to social security. Your employer also contributes 6.2%. If you are self-employed, you'll contribute the entire 12.4% on your own.

If you are a high earner, you will not have to contribute the full 6.2% of your income to social security. Instead, you contribute 6.2% of the first $128,700 you make.

When you reach retirement age, your payments will be based on your 35 highest-earning years in the workforce. If you did not work for a full 35 years, non-working years will be averaged in at zero dollars in income.

That said, payments are not only impacted by what you have paid into the program. They are also adjusted for inflation on a yearly basis. This means that you could get a cost of living adjustment on your checks, even after you start collecting.

What age can I get social security?

While you are contributing your own money to social security, that does not mean that you can claim your contributions whenever you want.

The retirement age was originally 65 but has since been raised to 67 for those born after 1960. By the time millennials are old enough to collect social security, the retirement age could be much higher.

In some cases, an individual may be able to receive social security benefits early, starting at age 62. In these cases, however, the recipients will receive reduced benefits for the rest of their lives.

Should I wait to collect benefits?

While you will become eligible to collect your social security benefits at age 67, waiting to collect comes with benefits.

Up to age 70, you can increase your yearly benefits by deferring your payments. After age 70, there is no additional benefit for waiting.

What if I have a disability?

Many people assume that social security is just for retirees. But there are actually a few other circumstances where someone might be able to collect payments.

For instance, a worker who is permanently disabled and unable to work may be eligible to collect social security. Additionally, surviving spouses and children of deceased workers are often eligible to collect monthly payments.

Do married couples have more options?

Many financial decisions are different for married couples. For instance, married couples can enjoy certain tax benefits by filing jointly. By the same note, married couples have more options when it comes to collecting social security.

If you are married, each spouse can choose to receive benefits based on their own earnings, or based on up to 50% of the higher earner's benefit. If your spouse passes away, you will receive payments equal to the higher earner's benefit.

Couples can also work together to be able to take advantage of the credit for deferring their social security payments. For instance, the lower-earning spouse can start collecting payments at 67 for 50% of the higher earner's benefit. When the higher earner reaches 70, they can still benefit from having deferred payments.

Can you work while collecting social security?

While almost 25% of retired people live exclusively on their social security benefits, many cannot afford to do so. If you still need to work to make ends meet, you will be able to collect social security benefits.

There is, however, one caveat. If you begin receiving social security before you reach full retirement age, the federal government will withhold part of your benefits if you earn more than $17,040 per year.

How is social security paid?

If you have been planning on cashing your social security check, you will have to readjust. The federal government stopped issuing paper checks for social security in 2011. Now, all recipients must receive their money by direct deposit.

Using direct deposit is a big money saver for the government. This is because it costs approximately a dollar per check to print and mail paper checks. Direct deposit also reduces fraud, since funds are deposited directly into the recipient's account.

Can statements be checked online?

Luckily, if you have a problem with your social security benefits, there is no need to visit the social security office in person. Instead, you can view all your information online by logging into the website.

Online, you can view your statements to see your earnings history and view what amount of social security you are eligible for. This can help you prepare your taxes and plan for the future.

Have other questions about your retirement? Try our retirement calculator here.

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