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

Do you know how much you’ll receive in Social Security benefits once you retire? If not, you’re not alone. Around 44% of U.S. adults don’t know how much to expect from Social Security, according to a 2022 survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

Not knowing your future benefit amount can make it more difficult to retire, and it could also affect your savings. Fortunately, checking your benefit amount is simple — and it can potentially result in a more financially secure retirement.

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How to check your Social Security benefit amount

You become eligible for Social Security benefits at age 62, but to receive the full benefit amount you’re entitled to, you’ll need to wait until your full retirement age (FRA) to begin claiming. Depending on your birth year, your FRA will be between ages 66 and 67.

The amount you’ll receive at your FRA will depend on the length of your career and your wages.

To calculate your benefit amount, the Social Security Administration (SSA) takes an average of your income over the 35 highest-earning years of your career. That number is then adjusted for inflation, and the result is the amount you’ll receive if you file at your FRA.

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

Making retirement planning easier

When you know how much you can expect from Social Security, it will be easier to plan for retirement.

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

Once you have a more accurate estimate of how much you’ll receive in benefits, you can determine whether your savings are on track. And the sooner you check your benefit amount, the more time you’ll have to make adjustments to your retirement plans if necessary.

Simple steps to increase your Social Security benefits

If you find that you won’t be receiving as much as you anticipate from Social Security, there are a few steps you can take to boost the size of your monthly checks:

Work for at least 35 years: If you still have many years before retirement, your benefit amount will appear smaller simply because much of your career is still ahead of you. But because the SSA calculates your benefits using the 35 highest-earning years of your career, it’s wise to ensure you work at least 35 full years before you begin claiming to maximize your checks.
Extend your career: Even if you have worked a long career already, chances are you’re earning more now than you were 35 years ago. Continuing to work just a year or two longer will ensure you have more higher-earning years in your average when the SSA calculates your benefits, resulting in a bigger monthly benefit.
Delay claiming benefits: By filing at your FRA, you’ll receive your full benefit amount based on your work record. But if you delay benefits a few years (up to age 70), you’ll receive your full benefit plus up to 32% extra each month.

Retirement planning is tough, but knowing how much you can expect in Social Security benefits can make it easier. By checking your benefit amount now, you can set yourself up for a more financially secure retirement.

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