Estimating Your Social Security Benefits

Estimating your Social Security benefits is particularly important when you are planning for retirement, although you may be interested in estimating survivor benefits or disability benefits as well. When planning for retirement, you should neither overlook nor overstate the value of your Social Security benefits. Predicting the future of Social Security is difficult, because to keep the system solvent, some changes must be made to it. The younger and wealthier you are, the more likely that these changes will affect you. But even if you retire in the next few years, remember that Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of income for retirees. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said: "The system is not intended as a substitute for private savings, pension plans, and insurance protection. It is, rather, intended as the foundation upon which these other forms of protection can be soundly built." Estimating your Social Security benefits now will not only help you plan an effective long-term retirement strategy, but it can also help you understand what benefits might protect your family if you were to die or become disabled.

Obtaining a benefits estimate

You can estimate your retirement benefit online based on your actual earnings record using the Retirement Estimator calculator on the Social Security website, ssa.gov. You can create different scenarios based on current law that will illustrate how different earnings amounts and retirement ages will affect the benefit you receive. Other benefit calculators are also available that can help you estimate disability and survivor benefits. You can also sign up to view your Social Security Statement that contains a detailed record of your earnings, as well as estimates of retirement, survivor, and disability benefits. If you're not registered for an online account and are not yet receiving benefits, you'll receive a statement in the mail every year, starting at age 60.

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