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Estimating Your Future Social Security Benefits

Plan more effectively for retirement by calculating potential Social Security benefits
 

Whether you are nearing retirement age or just entering the workforce, it is important to have an estimate of how much your future Social Security benefits will be. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you are ready to start collecting to find out what you will receive. There are several online tools that can estimate your future benefits and also help you discover more about the ways that different circumstances—such as your retirement age—could impact those benefits. With this information in hand, you can plan for retirement much more effectively.

Typically, you will receive a notice from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) each year that gives you an estimate of your future benefits. At any other time of the year, however, you can use online calculators to find more information. The SSA offers many different types of calculators, including the Quick Calculator, the Online Calculator, the Retirement Estimator, the Detailed Calculator, the Life Expectancy Calculator and the Retirement Age Calculator.

The Quick Calculator requires your current annual earnings and date of birth to give a rough estimate. It does not check the information with its own records but rather uses only the information you give, so the estimate may differ from the one you last saw on your Social Security statement.

The Online Calculator is similar to the Quick Calculator, but you must input your complete earnings history instead of only your current earnings. This will give you a more detailed and potentially accurate estimate of your retirement, survivor and disability benefits. It also projects future earnings until the date at which you retire.

The Retirement Estimator shows how three factors affect your monthly benefits: your earnings, the age at which you stop working and the age at which you begin receiving Social Security benefits. When you change the data you input in any one category, you can see how that will change your future benefits. It is more accurate than the Quick Calculator because it uses your information to look into its own system for your work history and Social Security earnings record.

In order to use this calculator, “[y]ou must have enough credits to qualify for benefits and not be eligible for a pension from work not covered by Social Security,” according to the SSA website.

The downloadable Detailed Calculator will run you through a variety of scenarios to help you understand how working longer can affect your benefits. It also gives precise estimates of disability and survivor benefits, and it includes WEP reduction. In order to use this, you must have a copy of your most recent statement from the SSA.

The Life Expectancy Calculator helps you get a basic estimate of how long you and your spouse may need to live on Social Security based on your life expectancy. This can help you determine how long you need to stretch your benefits to budget more accurately.

The Retirement Age Calculator lets you know your full retirement age. It also helps you project how your monthly benefits check may be reduced if you decide to stop working before your full retirement age.

You can find these helpful calculators, as well as several others, online at http://www.ssa.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.html.

In addition to the calculators provided by the SSA, there are also independent agencies that have created calculators that you can pay to use to determine more complicated retirement scenarios and benefits.

“Many independent software developers have designed advanced calculators that help you determine an appropriate claiming age for you and your spouse,” according to Dana Anspach, “Money Over 55” expert with about.com. “It’s a big decision and I think the advance calculators offer information that is worth the small price they charge.”

So, make sure to browse the available online calculators to gain a basic idea of what you can expect to receive in benefits after you retire. Not only will you gain peace of mind by being better-informed, but you will also be able to better plan your strategies for saving for retirement.


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