Tag Archives: social security benefits

The Only Way To Save the EU Is For The UK To Leave It

Brexit-4My Comments: Forget the UK and Europe. There’s a message here that applies to us in the United States and the anger among so many that gives rise to a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

It echoes the comments I’ve made here for years that “It’s economics, stupid!”. A primary driver of deteriorating race relations, of attacks on immigrants, on law enforcement, on the LGBT community, on gun owners, etc., is the fear that many of us are no longer in control of our own destiny. There is a pervasive appeal to try and turn back the clock, to reinvent the past and the conditions that led to a growing middle class in this country.

To the extent that those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, whether white, black or brown, cannot find a way to improve their quality of life, there is going to be stress. And that stress manifests itself as protests in the streets that appear to be focused on racial issues, on law enforcement issues, on immigrants who ‘take away our jobs’, and any number of other real and imagined grievances.

When you’re working 40 plus hours a week and making enough money to adequately feed, clothe and house your family, those grievances become irrelevant. Or at least manageable. They only surface and become a societal nightmare when enough people feel abandoned and disrespected and forgotten. And economics is a fundamental cause behind this drift toward chaos.

I’m not sure Hillary can fix this and I’m quite sure Trump can’t fix this. But I’m going to vote for whomever I think is most likely to force a discussion about the economic realities in this country. This is a long read but if you believe that income inequality is a problem, you need to read all of it.

by Gwynn Guilford on July 15, 2016

Xenophobic. Racist. Jingoistic. Nativist. Parochial. The 52% of British voters who hit the EU eject button might be all of those things. But they were also backing the right horse.

The vote repudiates a vision of Europe that rewards companies at workers’ expense. It’s a rebuke of a government that invests authority in a professional elite insulated from the economic realities of ordinary Europeans. The free flow of goods, services, capital, and people within the EU was supposed to spread prosperity. It hasn’t. Eventually, something big had to break.

While Brexit is certainly big, the fissure beneath it is bigger than Britain, or even Europe. The imbalances of trade, capital, labor, and—above all—savings that lie at the heart of Europe’s current turmoil warp the entire global financial system. Nearly everywhere you look, growth is sputtering because there’s simply too little demand—and far too much debt—to go around. And that’s thanks in no small part to the EU’s wooly-headed policies. However painful it might make the next few months or years, Brexit might ultimately be the wake-up call that prevents the EU from unleashing another global financial crisis, and condemning the world to decades of feeble growth.

To understand why things have gotten to this point, we have to examine the fundamental flaws in the EU’s design that are largely responsible for these distortions.


A New Day for Social Security?

SSA-image-3My Comments: As someone who teaches people how to maximize their social security benefits, a major fear that surfaces during a workshop is whether there is enough in the system to guarantee future benefits.

The quick answer is “not without some changes to the system”, which leads to more questions about when it will run out, and what can we do about it.

The last fundamental change came in 1983. At that time, the system was expected to go broke in two or three years. But here we are, 33 years later, with far more people in the system than ever before, and there is enough money in the system today to last another 20 years.

Since most of my students can expect to live for another 30-40 years, the question of whether they’ll still get a check at the other end is a real question. It deserves a more qualified answer than I can possible deliver. Here is a answer from someone very qualified.

By Stephen Hill, July 11, 2016

The U.S. has entered an anxious era in which fewer workers have a single employer or a regular workplace. Instead they have various employers and multiple part-time jobs and “gigs,” with these businesses not required to provide healthcare, make Social Security contributions or even offer compensation for workplace injuries.

A crucial adaptation to these changing circumstances would be the creation of a portable safety net, one that would make it possible for all workers to go from employer to employer while still retaining access to basic benefits. Social Security — which is already gloriously portable — could play a key role in such a system, but only if we fix it.

Social Security is our most effective anti-poverty program; without it, nearly half of the nation’s retirees would be living in poverty. Three-fourths of retirees depend on it heavily, particularly women and racial minorities. During the 2008-09 economic crisis, moreover, when home ownership, private savings and the stock market collapsed, Social Security remained stable.

The criticism that Social Security will face a financial deficit sometime in the 2030s is overblown. Social Security has an established trust fund that, legally speaking, cannot spend more than it takes in. Any future shortfall could be made up from any number of revenue sources, it’s all a matter of budgetary priorities.

In fact the real problem with Social Security is not a shortfall but that its payout is so meager. Social Security is designed to replace only about 35% of wages at retirement, yet most Americans need twice that amount to live decently. With the other components of the retirement system looking wobbly, and with incomes low, Social Security is too skimpy to be the nation’s single pillar retirement system.

The obvious solution is to expand it. There are numerous revenue streams that would allow the nation to greatly increase the monthly payout for the 43 million Americans who receive retirement benefits. Here are a few recommendations to consider.

First, we should eliminate the Social Security payroll cap so that all income levels pay the same rate. Currently any wage income above $118,500 is not taxed for Social Security purposes. The practical effect of the cap is that billionaire bankers and CEOs contribute a far lower percentage of their income into the Social Security Trust Fund than their secretaries and chauffeurs. Making payroll contributions more fair would raise approximately $135 billion annually.

In addition, we should stop exempting investment income from Social Security taxes. Wealthy Americans make 40%-50% of their money from investment income, and we help fund Medicare by taxing it like wages. If we did the same for Social Security, we could raise an additional $75 billion annually.

Along the same lines, we could scrap income tax shelters for wealthy households and businesses, and then reallocate the savings to the Social Security fund. Loopholes include the drastically lower tax rate for investment income like capital gains, “carried interest” and “step-up in basis,” the latter exclusively benefiting inherited wealth. These tax rules cost the national treasury hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Lastly, the U.S. could end or reduce tax breaks for private retirement accounts, including 401(k)s and IRAs, and again reallocate the savings to Social Security — which would be far more equitable. Of the $165 billion that the federal government spends subsidizing individual retirement savings, nearly 80% of it goes to the top 20% of income earners. Many of the middle class and poor can’t take advantage of these deductions because they don’t earn enough income to save. (For that reason, a universal 401(k), as has been proposed by President Obama, would be largely pointless).

Just these four revenue streams would come close to raising the $662 billion necessary to double Social Security’s monthly benefit.

Other nations manage to provide retirement benefits at that level, so there is no reason the U.S. can’t. Doing so would create a more secure retirement for everyone, even as it would benefit the overall economy and form a core part of a portable safety net that so many workers need. As the old New Deal crumbles, substantial expansion of Social Security benefits would provide a new kind of deal for U.S. workers.

Steven Hill is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and author of the recently published “Expand Social Security Now: How to Ensure Americans Get the Retirement They Deserve.”

Will You Regret Taking Social Security ASAP?

SSA-image-3 My Comments: Too many people choose to take early benefits. If you need the money, hate your job, don’t have a job, plan to die soon, or simply don’t have confidence in your life, then maybe it’s OK. But it usually turns out to be a mistake. There is a do over, but you have to take it within 12 months. Most don’t and then when they discover they are 75, there’s not enough money.

By Casey Dowd Published June 30, 2016 The Boomer FOXBusiness

Attention Baby Boomers who will soon be turning age 62 and are planning on taking Social Security benefits early, be sure to do your homework before you sign the paperwork.

A Nationwide Retirement Institute survey of 909 U.S. adults aged 50 or older found that many of those who claimed their Social Security benefits early wish they could change their decision – and the top reason is to maximize their benefit. Meanwhile, of those who wouldn’t change their decision, many say they had no choice – saying they needed the money.

“Social Security is undoubtedly one of the most complex retirement topics facing American workers,” says Dave Giertz, President of Sales and Distribution at Nationwide. “Even those who can identify the factors that will impact their benefit are likely unable to grasp the thousands of rules that apply to Social Security. The complexity makes it extremely difficult for retirees to maximize their benefit on their own.”

Giertz discussed with FOXBusiness.com what you need to know.

Boomer: What impact has claiming Social Security early had on American workers?

Giertz: American workers are potentially missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement income by claiming Social Security early. Instead of leaving money on the table, retirees need to consider all of their filing options to help understand how Social Security can fit into their overall retirement income plan.

Maximizing your Social Security benefit is more important than ever because, for most, it is the only source of retirement income. Only 36 percent of future retirees we surveyed have pensions, compared to 54 percent of recent retirees and 60 percent of the oldest retirees. Preparing for retirement holistically by working with online tools and advisors can help retirees face challenges posed by lack of retirement income, health care costs and other obstacles.

Boomer: What surprises typically come up in retirement?

Giertz: Seven out of 10 retirees who have health problems say the problems came sooner than they expected, increasing the impact on their retirement and their wallets. Additionally, almost two in five retirees (37 percent) say health problems keep them from living the retirement they expected.

For many current retirees, health care expenses are eating up a majority of their Social Security benefit. The average American claiming their Social Security at 62 will spend about 61 percent of their Social Security benefits on health care costs, according to a case study comparing data from Nationwide Retirement Institute’s Social Security 360 Analyzer and Health Care Costs Assessment tools. That’s before factoring in long-term care costs.

Meanwhile, according to the same case study, if an average American waits until age 70 to claim Social Security, they have more money left over and end up spending just 47 percent of their benefit on health care costs.

Boomer: How can Baby Boomers project what their benefit will be, so as not to be surprised when they retire?

Giertz: As a start, don’t guess. About a quarter of Americans who haven’t claimed Social Security say they are either guessing or don’t know the amount they will receive in their monthly benefit check. As a result, many Baby Boomers are overstating the amount they might receive. Those approaching retirement say they expect to get $1,610 in monthly Social Security benefits, while in reality recent retirees report their actual monthly benefit is about $1,378, and those who have been retired longer report receiving just an average of $1,185 per month.

Only 11 percent of current retirees used an online calculator to estimate their benefit; however, among Baby Boomers approaching retirement, the use of these tools is becoming much more prevalent. More than four in 10 future retirees (42 percent) have used a Social Security calculator to estimate their benefit.

While the development of Social Security calculators is helping close the Social Security knowledge gap, Americans should work with a financial advisor to create a holistic retirement income plan that includes Social Security. Retirees who work with an advisor are much less likely than those who don’t to say health care costs keep them from living the retirement they expected (11 percent vs. 29 percent).

Boomer: With the increase in the cost of living and inflation in retirement what should future retirees be doing now to support the increase?

Giertz: Nearly two in five Americans nearing retirement (38 percent) expect their living expenses will go down in retirement.

However, changes in the cost of living and inflation are the top reasons expenses increase in retirement, according to the retirees we surveyed. Of those retired 10+ years say the cost of living (79 percent) and inflation (62 percent) are the leading factors impacting their living expenses retirement.

In addition to saving more, maximizing your Social Security benefit is key to coping with cost of living increases and inflation.

Boomer: How can Boomers maximize their Social Security benefit?

Giertz: Eighty-six percent of future retirees cannot correctly identify the three basic factors that the Social Security Administration uses to determine their benefit amount, and, as a result, many retirees do not know how to maximize their Social Security. Understanding how your age, benefit start date and marital status work together to determine the amount in your benefit check every month is a great start.

However, the combinations of different ages, benefit start dates and marital statuses make every individual or family’s ideal filing strategy different – and many Baby Boomers may want to consider a variety of strategies with different benefit start dates.

While life events force many Americans to take Social Security early, those who are willing or able to wait get rewarded for their patience. According to the Social Security Administration, American workers receive and extra 8 percent per year for every year they postpone collecting benefits beyond their full retirement age amount – up to age 70.

Can You Afford to Live Longer?

retirement-exit-2My Comments: Many of you know that I’ve recently started a series of workshops that focuses on how the Social Security system works. It’s an attempt to help those who will soon become eligible, or are already eligible, better understand a very complex and not user friendly institution in American life.

One assumption that is new to me, but but critical to the planning process, is to assume everyone will live to be 100. Obviously that’s not going to happen, but it’s a conservative approach to making the necessary decisions about your future life style and how you are going to pay for it.

This article from Casey Dowd might be helpful if any of you think this applies to you.

By Casey Dowd, Published June 16, 2016

According to the National Institute on Aging, in 1950 a man retiring at age 65 could expect to live another 13 years and a 65-year-old woman another 15 years. Today, according to data from the Society of Actuaries, there is a 43 percent chance that retirees could live to at least age 95.

Allianz Life conducted a study with the Stanford Center on Longevity to explore the topic of longevity, what it means for retirement planning and how advances are leading people to consider alternative life-path possibilities.

“As Americans come to terms with the fact that they’ll likely live an extra 30 years, they have the opportunity to look back and evaluate their past decisions and consider the newfound possibilities for the future afforded by time,” said Katie Libbe, Allianz Life Vice President of Consumer Insights.
While it’s good news that you can expect to live longer in retirement, can you financially afford it? Libbe discussed with FOXBusiness.com what you need to know.

Boomer: How can Baby Boomers plan for living 30 more years in retirement, both socially and financially?

Libbe: We found that people are incredibly optimistic about longevity and also that they have interest in alternative life paths that differ from the traditional and linear “school-work/marriage/kids-retirement” track that has been the de facto life template for generations. When asked to design their ideal longer life, nearly half of Americans said they would prefer a nontraditional model that is unique to their interests – where they might work, take career breaks, go back to school, volunteer and try different things in no set order.

Although boomers may not have as great an opportunity to make widespread changes to their life path as younger generations, they can still use the conversation about longevity to consider new possibilities for their retirement years, including encore careers or continuing education. As they explore these new possibilities, they should also think about their financial plan and what it may take to build a strategy that supports an alternative to a traditional retirement.

Boomer: What regrets are boomers finding about chances not taken and dreams not realized?

Libbe: Although the topic of longevity was met with extreme optimism by the majority of boomers – 94% were positive on the prospect of living 30 extra years – the process of thinking about longer life caused many boomers to look back and identify some regrets about choices made and opportunities missed.

Nearly 20% of boomers noted they would “take more risks in life,” a common theme among the one-third of Americans who said they regretted many of their major life decisions. Included among those top regrets for boomers are not following their dreams, not taking risks with their career and not taking risks with their lives in general (new jobs, going back to school, etc.). Nearly a third also said they wish they’d been more gutsy in their choices and done things they really wanted to do.

Boomer: How does this change traditional retirement planning?

Libbe: For many Americans, including boomers, having more time opens the door to new opportunities. Boomer respondents confirmed a desire to explore different life paths: pursuing a dream like starting a new business, having a second career doing something they truly enjoy, volunteering/supporting the environment, or retiring later by working fewer hours but for more years overall. Nearly half of all respondents feel a longer life can enable a totally different view of how and when major life choices are made.

While many Americans expressed interest in embracing the possibilities of a longer life, they also understand the need for better planning in order to fund those different goals/life paths. More than nine in 10 boomer respondents agreed that people will need to be more thoughtful about how they plan for longer lives, and nearly the same percentage agreed that major changes would be needed in how people think about funding longer lives. In addition, a full 94% of boomers agreed that, with 30 extra years, it’s not enough to just put aside money for retirement – people would need a much broader, more goal-specific plan – a longevity plan, that falls outside the confines of traditional financial planning.

Boomer: Is our parents’ “traditional” retirement gone forever?

Traditional retirement is not gone forever, but new conversations about longevity are forcing people to consider whether a traditional retirement is truly right for them. Of course, if you prefer spending time on a beach or at the golf course, there is nothing wrong with developing a plan to help you achieve those more traditional retirement goals. But it’s important to understand that there are many other possibilities that come with longer life – from extending your working years doing something you love, to taking a sabbatical now in order to pursue a passion project while you still have the time and energy to make it a reality.

It certainly takes careful planning to achieve these objectives, and most Americans seem to understand that a new paradigm is needed to think about, plan for and fund a longer life. A good first step is to meet with a financial professional and discuss how you may be able to achieve different short- and mid-term goals while saving for retirement, opening up the freedom to try different things, pursue passions and explore alternative life plans.

Claiming Social Security at Full Retirement Age is Often a Mistake

SSA-image-2My Comments: The headline above should probably read ‘Sometimes’ instead of ‘Often’. It depends to some extent on when you die.

Since that date is completely unknown, the only solution is to play the odds, and my recommendation these days is to assume you will live to be 100. That’s the conservative approach.

Unless you plan to die soon, you’ve going to need money from somewhere, and for many of us, our Social Security payments will make up the bulk of our retirement income. So it might make sense to spend down what little you’ve saved and then rely on a larger check from Social Security when you reach age 70.

Mike Piper June 13, 2016

Imagine for a moment that I am an insurance company, and you are a married retiree. And, as an insurance company, I offer to sell you either (or both) of two annuities:
• With Annuity A, for every $100 of the annuity you purchase, I promise to pay you $7 per year for as long as you or your spouse is alive.
• With Annuity B, for every $100 of the annuity you purchase, I promise to pay you $7 per year for as long as both you and your spouse are still alive.

But I will only sell you, at most, $10,000 of either annuity.

There would be a number of reasonable decisions you could make here. You might purchase $10,000 of each annuity. Or you might purchase neither. Or you might purchase $10,000 of Annuity A and $2,000 of Annuity B. And so on.

But you wouldn’t, for instance, purchase $10,000 of Annuity B and $2,000 of Annuity A. Nor would you purchase $5,000 of each. And that’s because Annuity B is worse than Annuity A.

In short, you wouldn’t spend a dime on Annuity B unless you had already purchased the maximum amount of Annuity A and you still wanted to purchase more annuities.

What Does This Have to Do with Retirement Planning?

In our hypothetical example above, Annuity A is essentially what you get when the higher earner in a married couple delays claiming his/her Social Security retirement benefit. And Annuity B is what you get when the lower earner in a married couple delays claiming benefits. The percentages are slightly off, but the concept is the same — delaying the benefit of the spouse with the higher primary insurance amount increases the amount the couple receives as long as either spouse is still alive, while delaying the low-PIA spouse’s benefit increases the amount the couple receives while both spouses are alive.

In our example above, it doesn’t make sense to buy any of Annuity B unless you’re already buying the maximum amount of Annuity A. And, with Social Security, the low-PIA spouse shouldn’t be doing any waiting unless the high-PIA spouse is already planning to wait until 70.

Unfortunately, it’s common to see couples in which both spouses start taking Social Security at full retirement age (or close to it), despite the fact that there would have been a strictly-superior strategy available to them.

The End Of The Fossil Fuel Age As We Know It

oil productionMy Comments: I grew up in WW2 England, in my uncle’s house, and he had a car in the garage. My father was in the Royal Tank Regiment, doing what soldiers do in a war. My life as a small boy was relatively normal. Petrol (gasoline) was rationed but I recall going for a drive into the country, miles from our village, and stopping at a farm where we purchased eggs. They too were rationed but my uncle had a ‘friend’ who, for the right price, provided as many as you wanted. We had a car, some petrol, but no refrigerator.

Changes are happening, there is a new normal, and there will be another new normal in the future.

BEC CREW 16 JUN 2016

Fossil fuels are holding on, but end of their reign is nigh, says a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which predicts that wind and solar will be cheaper than coal and gas generators by 2027, and electric vehicles could make up 25 percent of the global car fleet by 2040.

The peak year for coal, gas, and oil looks to be 2025, and then it’s all downhill from there. For big oil guys, at least. “You can’t fight the future,” says lead researcher, Seb Henbest. “The economics are increasingly locked in.”

Released on Monday, Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook report has found that US$11.4 trillion will be invested in new energy sources over the next 25 years, and two thirds of that will go towards renewables, particularly wind and solar.

Any new coal plants will mostly be cropping up in India and other emerging markets in Asia.

“Cheaper coal and cheaper gas will not derail the transformation and decarbonisation of the world’s power systems. By 2040, zero-emission energy sources will make up 60 percent of installed capacity.

Wind and solar will account for 64 percent of the 8.6TW [1 Terawatt = 1,000 Gigawatts] of new power generating capacity added worldwide over the next 25 years, and for almost 60 percent of the $11.4 trillion invested.”

The report predicts that coal, gas, and oil will peak by 2025, and will hit its final decline even sooner than that, concluding that, “coal and gas will begin their terminal decline in less than a decade”.

By 2027, the real tipping point will occur, when fossil fuels will be well and truly on the decline and renewables have been established long enough that they’ll likely be generating energy more cheaply than existing coal, gas, and oil refineries. And there’s nothing quite like a cheaper price to accelerate an industry even further.

Let’s just take a moment and think about that for a second. For the first time since humanity fell in love with producing crazy amounts of energy to give us such luxuries as cars, electricity, industrial-level food production, and overseas vacations, we’ve figured out how to do it without stomping all over the environment in the process.

We’re not there yet, but the writing is well and truly on the wall, and that’s a pretty phenomenal achievement by researchers all over the world who have been working their butts off to make renewable technologies viable on a massive scale – even more viable than fossil fuels.

But here’s the bad news. For as promising as the rise of renewables and the fall of fossil fuels is, Bloomberg’s report says their projections won’t be enough to limit the global warming increase of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) that was targeted by the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

“Some US$7.8 trillion will be invested globally in renewables between 2016 and 2040, two-thirds of the investment in all power generating capacity, but it would require trillions more to bring world emissions onto a track compatible with the United Nations 2 degrees Celsius climate target,” says Henbest.

According to Andrew Freedman at Mashable, to meet what everyone agreed needed to happen at the Paris Conference, an additional US$5.3 trillion in new clean energy investment would need to be invested worldwide in the next 25 years.

Below are some more insights from the report:
• Coal and gas prices will stay low.
• Wind and solar costs fall sharply.
• An electric car boom is expected, and will likely represent 35 percent of worldwide new light-duty vehicle sales in 2040 – which is 90 times the 2015 figure – and 25 percent of the global car fleet overall.
• Small-scale battery storage will become a US$250 billion market to enable more residential and commercial solar systems.
• India, not China, will be the key to the future global emissions trend, with its electricity demand forecast to grow 3.8 times between 2016 and 2040.
• Renewables will dominate in Europe, and overtake gas in the US.

To be clear, these are just very educated predictions based on government and industry spending, so none of this is set in stone. But experts have been predicting the end of the fossil fuel era for years now, and we’re probably going to see it within our lifetime. What an awesome thing to look forward to.

How Much Will I Get From Social Security?

SSA-image-3My Comments: Next month I start a series of workshops about Social Security. I’m somewhat fearful since this past weekend, I had questions from a couple of folks and while I thought I knew the answer, I wasn’t sure. One solution is to have you become a free member of an organization called the American Financial Education Alliance, or AFEA. Click on the name or image here, and you will find dozens of free calculators, including Social Security. If you’re in the Gainesville, Florida area, you’ll find I’m a Chapter President. The game plan is for me to help anyone better understand their financial circumstances.

By Dan Caplinger, Published May 22, 2016 on fool.com

Most Americans expect to get at least some income from Social Security when they retire. Figuring out exactly how much you’ll get from it isn’t as simple as you’d hope, because the calculation of your benefit amount takes into account a career’s worth of earnings history and other decisions that you make regarding your retirement. Nevertheless, you can estimate how much you’ll get from Social Security either by figuring out average earnings by hand or by using a selection of available Social Security calculators for the task.

Doing a manual calculation of your expected Social Security benefits isn’t simple. You have to start by looking at your entire career earnings history. You have to know the maximum wage base limits on which Social Security payroll taxes were charged for each of those years, and you’ll have to apply adjustments to index your earnings for inflation. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to take the 35 individual years that have the highest inflation-adjusted earnings, find the average, and then divide by 12 to get average indexed monthly earnings.

From there, you’ll use a formula to determine your primary insurance amount. The formula changes every year, but for those who turn 62 in 2016, take 90% of the first $856, 32% of the amount between $856 and $5,157, and 15% of any excess over $5,157. Add that up, and you’ll have your monthly check amount if you take retirement benefits at full retirement age. For instance, if you earned an inflation adjusted average of $2,500 per month throughout a 35-year career, then your primary insurance amount would be 90% of $856, plus 32% of $1,644, for a total of $1,296 per month.

Finally, that amount can vary depending on when you take benefits. Claiming at age 62 can cut your benefit by 25%, while claiming at 70 can boost it by 32%. In the example above, that means you’d get $972 at age 62, or $1,711 at age 70.

Fortunately, you don’t have to use do your own calculations. Several calculators exist to help you figure it out for you, with varying degrees of complexity.

This simple calculator simply has you enter average annual income, current age, and the expected age at which you anticipate taking benefits. It also assumes that inflation will boost Social Security payments by a fixed percentage each year between now and when you claim your benefits. The results tell you how much you’ll get and what percentage of your current income will be replaced by Social Security.

In addition, the Social Security Administration offers its own calculators to help you. The Social Security Quick Calculator is similar to the simple calculator above, taking current income, extrapolating back, and estimating future earnings. It makes the most assumptions, and so its results won’t be very precise if those assumptions prove incorrect. The SSA’s Online Calculator allows you to enter more of your own personal data, including earnings for each past year. This will provide a more accurate estimate based on actual work history, but it still assumes future work history. The Detailed Calculator requires separate installation on your computer, but it gives the most complete picture of all benefits available.

The SSA even offers calculators that tap directly into your work history. The Retirement Estimator uses the SSA’s own records of how much you earned to fill in blanks that other calculators make you do yourself.

Finally, Social Security provides you with a statement that will go through estimates of benefits for you, your spouse, and your children under certain circumstances. Between retirement, disability, and survivor benefits, your Social Security statement has a wealth of information to help you figure out how much you and your family will get from the program.

Estimating your Social Security benefits isn’t the easiest thing in the world. With these tools, however, you can come up with solid estimates of your future benefits. Taking the time to use these calculators or to do your own manual calculations will give you the basic information you need in order to plan for your retirement years in a more informed way.