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social security calculator

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How to use Credit Karma’s Social Security calculator

Every time you get paid, your employer is required to withhold a portion of your earnings to cover payroll taxes. Also known as FICA, or the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, this money is used in part to pay your Social Security taxes, which go toward funding  retirement and disability benefits.   

You won’t be able to collect Social Security until you’re retired, or have another qualifying circumstance, such as a disability.

Information needed to calculate Social Security benefits

Keep in mind that the result you’ll get using our Social Security calculator is only an estimate, and calculates your potential benefits only. There may be other factors that affect the actual benefits you’ll receive, including the length of your work history, the type of jobs you’ve had, pensions you’ve earned and taxes you may have to pay on benefits.

This calculator doesn’t account for situations in which eligible widows, ex-spouses or dependents may be able to collect someone else’s Social Security benefits.

The amount of your Social Security benefit is generally based on your average income during your career. The formula is complicated but essentially gives you a percentage of your monthly income based on your earnings history. Our calculator will compute this for you.

To figure out your estimated monthly Social Security benefits, you’ll need to enter the following key pieces of information into the calculator:

Date of birth

Your birthdate will help determine when you qualify to start receiving benefits based on your current age, and it will factor in to how much you receive.

Average annual salary

The amount you receive in Social Security benefits is dependent on how much money you earned during your career. Typically, you’ll average the 35 years in which you earned the most and enter that number. If you don’t have that number handy, you can get your earnings record online from the Social Security Administration.

At what age do you plan to retire?

The age at which you retire can have a major effect on the size of the Social Security benefits you’ll receive. The longer you wait up until age 70, the more benefits you may be able to collect.

Enter the age at which you would like to retire and begin collecting benefits. You can get retirement benefits as early as age 62.

How Social Security benefits work

As mentioned above, your Social Security benefits are funded through payroll taxes. You typically pay about 6.2% of your paycheck into Social Security (and your employer will pay 6.2% as well) up to a taxable maximum income of $147,000 for 2022. If you’re self-employed, you’ll pay the entire 12.4% up to the maximum.

Although you’ll pay toward Social Security with every paycheck, your money isn’t held for you. Instead, your taxes go into a pool to pay for people currently collecting benefits.

More than $1 trillion was collected from payroll taxes for Social Security in 2020. The Social Security retirement benefit you will receive will primarily be paid for by people working when you start collecting.

Does retirement age affect Social Security benefits?

It can. The amount you qualify to receive in Social Security retirement will vary based on the age you plan to retire. Let’s look at the three most common scenarios:

Early retirement age

You’re allowed to collect Social Security benefits starting at age 62, which is considered “early retirement.” The amount you receive will be less than if you wait a few years. According to the Social Security Administration, your benefits could be reduced by as much as 30% if you take benefits early.

Full retirement age

If you wait until “full retirement age,” your benefits will not be reduced. Full retirement age is currently 66, though it is 67 for people born in 1960 or later.

Retirement after age 70

Your benefits increase every month you delay receiving benefits after full retirement age, up until you reach age 70. At that point, there is no advantage in delaying your benefits. You can even continue to work with no reduction in your benefits.

Who is eligible for Social Security benefits?

Keep in mind that our Social Security calculator only provides an estimate of what your benefits may be. It’s important to understand that there are a few categories of people who can become eligible for Social Security. These include:

Retired workers

To be eligible for Social Security as a retired worker, you generally must be at least 62 years old. You’ll also typically need a work history of 10 years.

People with disabilities

If you have a mental or physical disability that prevents you from working, you may qualify for Social Security benefits. But keep in mind that the rules for eligibility are different from other government agencies, so you may qualify as disabled for another program but not qualify to receive Social Security benefits.

Spouses and dependents

Social Security benefits may also go to survivors of eligible workers who have died, including spouses, ex-spouses and dependents, such as children. Even if the spouse never worked, they may still be eligible if they’re at least age 62. Children must be unmarried and typically under age 18.

Special rules for certain industries

If you work in certain career fields, your earnings may have special rules that affect how you qualify for Social Security benefits. These categories include:

  • Agriculture
  • Federal government
  • State or local government
  • Military
  • Household employment
  • Nonprofit or religious organizations
  • Railroad
  • Self-employment

Is Social Security all you need to retire?

Generally not. Social Security is not intended to be your only source of retirement income. On average, beneficiaries receive about 40% of their pre-retirement income through Social Security benefits. According to the Social Security Administration,  most financial advisers say you’ll need at least 70% of your pre-retirement income to comfortably meet your expenses in retirement.

Here are few other ways to save for retirement:

  • 401(k) — These are retirement savings plans sponsored by your employer. You can choose to put some of your paycheck into an investment account pre-tax, and you don’t pay taxes on the money until you withdraw it.
  • 403(b) — Similar to a 401(k), a 403(b) is a retirement plan sponsored by an employer — but eligible employers include public schools, churches and 501(c) (3) nonprofit organizations. You can invest pre-tax income and not pay taxes until you withdraw money.
  • 457(b) — These are retirement investment accounts for employees of state and local governments and certain nongovernmental organizations. Like the two plans above, money you put in is before taxes, and you won’t pay taxes on the contributions or earnings until you withdraw them.
  • Thrift savings plan — This is a retirement investment account for federal government employees, with tax features similar to the 401(k).
  • IRAs — Individual Retirement Arrangements, or IRAs, are retirement savings accounts you set up on your own through a bank, stockbroker or insurance company. There are two main varieties: traditional and Roth. A traditional IRA allows you to deduct contributions you make on your taxes. With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars, but the money may be tax-free when you withdraw it.