Knowing where you stand with Social Security

Have you ever wondered where you stand with Social Security? Recently Beth Kobliner, who is a personal finance journalist for the New York Times wrote an article to help us decipher this. Her article appeared in the March 23, 2017 NYT.

The article appears in its entirety here but you should check it out on the Social Security blog if you want more information.

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For most people, Social Security is a mystery. We see that 6.2 percent deduction on our pay stubs and wonder: What does it mean for my financial future? The answers: A lot. And not enough.

After tax season, take a few minutes to go online and read your Social Security statement. Even if your retirement is 30 or 40 years away, you need to know where you stand now. The Government Accountability Office tells us that nearly a third of households with members ages 55 and up have no retirement savings plan or pension in place—zip. That means Social Security is the only post-retirement pay they’ll get – and the estimated average monthly benefit for retirees (as of 2017) is just $1,360. (See what I mean by “not enough”?)

And women (lucky us!) have special reasons to worry. In a survey released in December 2016, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reported that men claimed to have more than three times the retirement savings women have. Yes, it appears that the dreaded Pay Gap has a retired older cousin called the Retirement Gap. (Oh, and because women live longer than men, on average, you’ll probably need to save for two or three more years of retirement.)

To check up on your Social Security, log on to https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/, and follow the instructions to view your Social Security Statement. It will show you how much you’re currently eligible for, depending on when you start receiving Social Security benefits. Your monthly benefit amount increases the longer you delay your retirement, up to age 70. People get a smaller monthly benefit if they take early retirement, at age 62, than they would get at full retirement age (67 for anyone born in 1960 or later). Keep working until you turn 70, and you’ll get quite a bit more each month in retirement. Your online Statement breaks it all down.

You can also find out the monthly amount you’re eligible for if you become disabled and can’t work – and whether your family qualifies for survivor benefits in the event of your death.

Confronting your Social Security status annually will give you a much-needed reality check. Could you survive on what the government will send to you each month? (The short answer: Don’t count on it.) How much – and how quickly – do you need to start saving in a 401(k) or IRA? (Hint: the maximum – now.)

So now you know. Social Security needs to be part of your annual financial checkup. Because inspecting the old safety net might inspire you to start saving now so you will have enough to fall back on in retirement.

 

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