Do you know how much money Social Security will provide in your later years? Many people don't. And not being aware of this number could make it much more difficult for you to make your retirement plans.
The good news is, there's an easy way to get an estimate of the amount of your future retirement benefit checks. Here's how to do it.
When do you get your full Social Security benefits?
The Social Security benefits formula can be complicated. The benefits equal a percentage of the average of your inflation-adjusted wages in the 35 years your earnings were the highest.
Your benefits can be affected by your age when you get your first monthly check. Your standard benefit is available only when you reach your designated full retirement age (FRA). Before that FRA point, benefits are available to withdraw but your monthly check will be reduced accordingly. And delaying filing a claim until after that FRA point will result in an increased monthly check amount based on a specific calculation.
The good news is, you don't have to learn the complicated math on the benefits formula or the impact of an early or a delayed claim. Instead, you can simply sign in to your personalized online Social Security account to see an estimate of what your earned benefits would be at different claiming ages.
How to see your estimated future Social Security benefits
If you want to see an estimate of your future benefit, you can create an account at mySocialSecurity.gov. Signing up for an account is quick and free and requires providing some basic details, including your Social Security number, as well as answering identifying questions.
If you already have an account, you can simply visit the mySocialSecurity website and sign in with your user name and password. You'll likely need to enter a security code though, which will be sent to the email address and/or smartphone number you have on file.
After signing in, you can see your future benefit amount by scrolling down to the section called “Plan for Retirement.” There's a graph showing estimated benefits at different filing ages. And you can use a pull-down menu to select the exact age when you want to start your checks. The website will show you how much your monthly and annual Social Security income will be at each of those chosen ages.
Using this tool helps you understand how an early or late claim raises or lowers the monthly income Social Security will offer you so you can make a more informed choice about when to file. It also gives you a more realistic perception of just how much income retirement benefits provide — which may be less than you think.
Something to be aware of: Social Security can't predict your future earnings with 100% certainty. The estimate of benefits is based on your current earnings as well as a guess as to what you're likely to make throughout the rest of your career. You can, however, use the pull-down menu to input your anticipated future salary to get a more accurate picture.
If your income goes up or down significantly compared to what you've earned and the amount you've estimated, the monthly benefit you're entitled to could change quite a bit. Still, the closer you are to retirement, the more accurate this estimating method will be.
Since it's so quick and easy to see what these benefits will do for you, there's little reason for pre-retirees not to sign in and check to see what role Social Security will play in their retirement — and how they can impact the financial support they receive with their choice about when to start their monthly checks.
The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.