Retiree Corner: Social Security Checkup

Social Security CheckupMany people rely on Social Security benefits for a major part of their retirement income. When you're planning for retirement, it's important to estimate how much you'll get from Social Security, fix any errors in your earnings record, and start thinking about your options for receiving benefits.

Start by setting up a my Social Security account (www.ssa.gov/myaccount) and getting your Social Security statement. You'll see a summary of your earnings over your career and estimates of your benefits in various scenarios. Check the earnings record to make sure nothing is missing. If you spot any errors, call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213. It helps to provide your W-2, tax return, or pay stubs showing the accurate amount.

You'll see an estimate of your monthly benefits if you continue working until your full retirement age (age 66 for people born from 1943 to 1954). The statement also shows how much your benefits will be reduced if you take them early at age 62, and how much extra you'll receive if you wait until age 70 (your benefits increase by 8 percent for each year you wait after your full retirement age, until age 70). Start thinking about when you'd like to receive benefits, and plug those figures into a retirement-planning calculator (see www.icmarc.org/ontrack).

Estimating Social Security benefits is more complicated for some public sector employees who had earnings that were not covered by Social Security. If you had a job in which your earnings weren't subject to Social Security taxes and another job during your career that was, your Social Security benefits could be lower than expected because of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Your Social Security statement may not have been adjusted for this change, but you can use the WEP calculator at www.ssa.gov to estimate your benefits. For more information about the WEP, see www.ssa.gov/wep.

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