As retirement approaches, thoughts of collecting Social Security benefits often arise. After years of hard work, it’s natural to wonder how your benefits will compare to those of your fellow retirees. However, determining this requires considering various factors.
As of May 2023, approximately 49.4 million retired Americans are receiving retirement benefits, and the amount they receive depends on factors such as their work history, earnings, the age at which they start collecting Social Security, and more.
To gain insight into how your Social Security benefits may compare with your peers, it is important to understand how the government calculates your benefit. The Social Security Administration employs a complex formula that takes into account your lifetime earnings to determine the primary insurance amount, which is then used to calculate your monthly benefit at full retirement age (typically 66 or older, depending on your birth year).
Ensuring that you’re prepared for retirement is essential. The Social Security benefits you’ll receive depend on when you choose to start collecting them and any yearly cost-of-living adjustments. If you decide to begin receiving benefits at 62, your payments will be reduced. On the other hand, the longer you wait to apply for benefits, the higher your payment will be.
Finding out your projected retirement earnings can be done by creating an online account with Social Security at www.ssa.gov/myaccount. This account allows individuals aged 18 and above to monitor their earnings and access information about their projected retirement earnings at ages such as 62, 65, or full retirement age.
It’s important to note that your Social Security benefits will not be identical to those of other retirees, even if you and your spouse worked for 45 years in different professions. Just as your paychecks vary, so will your Social Security payments. Social Security’s 2022 Annual Statistical Supplement provides an overview of the benefits received by others based on age and gender, using the latest available data from December 2021.
The report reveals that in December 2021, around 47.3% of retirees received an average monthly benefit of $1,658.03. However, there is a disparity in benefits between men and women, with men receiving an average of $1,838.08 while women received $1,483.75. The American Academy of Actuaries attributes this difference to the gender pay gap and traditional gender roles, as women tend to earn less due to breaks for caregiving and family responsibilities.
To get an idea of how your Social Security benefits compare with the average for your age and gender, the following figures from Social Security’s 2022 Annual Statistical Supplement provide some insight:
Social Security Earnings By Age and Gender
Note: The age ranges of 75-79 and 80-84 indicate the respective age groups, while 100+ represents individuals aged 100 or older.
Source: Social Security Administration, Master Beneficiary Record
Increasing your Social Security benefits can be achieved through various strategies. While working more and accumulating at least 40 “credits” over a minimum of 10 years is essential for eligibility, the calculation of benefits is based on your highest income during 35 years. Working beyond 35 years can replace low-earning years, thereby boosting your benefits. Additionally, consider the following options:
- Pursue higher-paying jobs or take on additional employment while still working.
- Delay collecting benefits until reaching full retirement age.
- Explore spousal benefits.
- Consult a tax advisor to minimize Social Security taxes.
- Verify your earnings through your online Social Security account to ensure accurate calculations.
Related article: Increase your Social Security Check
In summary, understanding Social Security benefits is a complex process. Seeking advice from a knowledgeable advisor can provide valuable guidance for making informed decisions about when to start collecting benefits and planning for retirement.