Social Security is a tricky little entity. It’s a good one, we get steady monetary payments throughout retirement, but the details are somewhat elusive. For example, it’s difficult to budget your retirement if you don’t know how much you have to work with – what’s your monthly income? Social Security is an important lifestyle factor, so getting an idea about what you can expect to bring in over a lifetime really helps determine when to retire, and when to withdraw our benefits. Read on to see what kind of payouts you can expect.
How Payouts Are Determined
The first thing to bear in mind is that Social Security is not designed to be the sole unit of payment for retirees. The government assumes you have a nest egg and/or an investment strategy, pensions, 401K or IRA, or some other method of cash flow.
But the money you get from the government is determined by your working years, your birth year, and when you claim. You can’t, of course, do anything about the year you were born, but you should know what age you are eligible to retire. The other factors play off this important ingredient. Benefit eligibility is either 62 or 67, so going from there, you can start to do a little math based on the following:
Working Years and Payouts
First, your work history. The way your payouts are calculated is to take the average income of your highest earning 35 work years. So if you haven’t hit 35 years of work yet, you’re not ready to retire. And if you didn’t make a lot of money until age 35, for example, it may behoove you to wait until you’re 70 to take your benefits, since your average will be higher. But if you had a consistent income throughout, then working a little longer won’t likely increase your average payment, based on this information alone.
But, this second ingredient may persuade those steady earners to continue working a few more years. The longer you wait to take your payout, the larger it will be – for some, it’s up to 8 percent higher. That’s because you didn’t spend for those years, which means you have the same amount to withdraw from, but over less time, so higher payouts are possible.
Working Around Eligibility
The counter to the above is that if you take out funds before your eligible year, say at age 60, then you’ll have up to 30 percent less than you would have if you’d waited until you’re eligible. Remember the above, waiting until age 70 offers a higher payout.
That said, if your health is poor, working for more years isn’t to your advantage. Taking money upon eligibility is a better lifestyle path.
It could be you took out benefits and changed your mind. There’s a solution for this, but only during the first 12 months since you took your first payout. You can file a SSA-521 form, and undo your payouts. This is especially useful if you recently took a new well-paying job. The thing is, you have repay what you’ve taken out, including money any dependents or spouses withdrew. Once you do that, it’s as if you’d never received a payout.
The Bottom Line – What You’ll Get
So, understanding that averages are just that – numbers that can go up or down based on your individual situation – here are lifetime payout averages based on a report by the Urban Institute back in 2015.
Baby Boomers, born roughly between 1946-1964, are entering retirement now. In 2020, those born in 1955 will be 65 and potentially leaving the workplace. Since this is the center of the Boomer years, this is what the Urban Institute used as a middle estimate. Their findings: a single man with a salary of $47,800 in 2015 will get $304,000 total Social Security benefits over a lifetime. A single woman, who will statistically live longer, with the same salary in 2015, will take home $332,000 in benefits. So, the average is $318,000 for the average Boomer retiree.
Now, to put that information to use, the average 65 year-old will live another 20 years, which means that $318,000 translates to $1371 per month. Remember, Social Security isn’t a salary, but a supplement. This money is critical for many – the Urban Institute also reported that some 15.1 million seniors over 65 stayed above the poverty line because of their payouts. So while your Social Security shouldn’t be regarded as your sole income source, you can guarantee it’ll have a significant impact on your lifestyle. The important thing to do is make sure you work long enough and manage your claims wisely.