Retirement Talk: How Much Will I Get From Social Security?


It can be difficult to predict how much you will receive from Social Security, especially if you are more than a few years away from retirement. But familiarizing yourself with how your benefit will be calculated can help you budget for retirement and even boost your future Social Security payments. Here’s how to estimate how much you will get from Social Security in retirement.


Smiling man wearing blue denim collared top
Smiling man wearing blue denim collared top. Picture by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash.


Consider the averages. The average Social Security benefit was $1,413.37 per month in June 2018. The maximum possible Social Security benefit for someone who retires at full retirement age is $2,788 in 2018. However, a worker would need to earn the maximum taxable amount, currently $128,400 for 2018, over a 35-year career to get this Social Security payment.

Familiarize yourself with the calculation. Social Security payments are calculated using the 35 highest earning years of your career and are adjusted for inflation. If you work for more than 35 years, your lowest earning years are dropped from the calculation, which results in a higher payment. Those who don’t work for 35 years have zeros averaged into the Social Security calculation and get smaller payments. “When it’s time to calculate your benefits, the Social Security Administration will look at your highest 35 years of earnings, and earnings before your 60th birthday are indexed for inflation – meaning that while your earnings may have crept up over your career, the money you earn this year may not be one of your highest earnings years after indexing,” says Jim Blankenship, a certified financial planner at Blankenship Financial Planning in New Berlin, Illinois and author of “A Social Security Owner’s Manual.”

For a worker who becomes eligible for Social Security payments in 2018, the benefit amount is calculated by multiplying the first $895 of average indexed monthly earnings by 90 percent, the remaining earnings up to $5,397 by 32 percent, and earnings over $5,397 by 15 percent. The sum of these three amounts, rounded down to the nearest 10 cents, is the initial payment amount. Cost-of-living adjustments and delayed retirement credits can boost your payments above this amount.

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