4 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

Deciding when to start receiving your retirement benefits from Social Security is a decision that only you can make, and you should make that decision with as much information as possible. There are a lot of important questions to answer.

Should you claim benefits earlier and get a smaller monthly payment for more years? Or should you wait and get a bigger monthly amount over a shorter period?

There are no right or wrong answers, but we encourage you to consider these four important questions as you plan for your financially secure retirement:

How much money will I need to live comfortably in retirement?

Anticipate what your expenses will be in retirement, including things like mortgage payments or rent, utilities, healthcare insurance and related costs, food, personal care, car payments and maintenance, entertainment, hobbies, travel, and credit card or other debt. Also, consider whether you’ll need to provide for your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

What will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit be?

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2018 is $1,404 (up from $1,377 in 2017). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2018 is $1,197 (up from $1,173 in 2017). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about 10 years of work). The Social Security Act details how the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is calculated. You can read more about the COLA on our website. The best way to get an estimate of your retirement benefit is with a my Social Security account. Get yours today.

Will I have other income to supplement my Social Security benefits?

Secure your financial future with a retirement portfolio that includes savings, investments, and possibly a pension plan. If you’re willing and able, you may choose to increase your income by working past retirement age. Social Security replaces a percentage of a worker’s pre-retirement income based on your lifetime earnings. The amount of your average wages that Social Security retirement benefits replaces varies depending on your earnings and when you choose to start benefits. If you start benefits at age 67, this percentage ranges from as much as 75 percent for very low earners, to about 40 percent for medium earners, to about 27 percent for high earners. If you start benefits after age 67, these percentages would be higher. If you start benefits earlier, these percentages would be lower. Most financial advisers say you will need about 70 percent of pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement, including your Social Security benefits, investments, and other savings.

How long do I expect my retirement to last?

Anticipate the length of your retirement, keeping in mind that many American workers will live much longer than the “average” retiree. Consider your health, family longevity, and lifestyle. Your Social Security retirement benefits will provide continuous income for as long as you live, protecting you even if your other sources of income run out. Discover your life expectancy with our online calculator.

No one can predict the future perfectly, but careful planning and preparation will help you to make a well-informed decision about when to start receiving your Social Security benefits.

If you’ve contributed enough to the Social Security system through FICA payroll taxes, you can receive your full retirement benefit at age 66 or 67 depending on when you were born. You may also claim it sooner, starting at age 62, at a permanently reduced rate. Or you may wait until after your full retirement age, increasing your benefit amount by up to 8 percent per full year to age 70.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, and we’re here to help you prepare for a financially secure future for you and your family. We invite you to use our online retirement planners.

To learn more about all of our programs, please visit us.

Join us on Facebook Live with USAgov on 1/30 at 7 P.M. ET as we chat about retirement.

Note: The closed captioned version will be available within one week after the broadcast.


37 thoughts on “4 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

    • Representatives at our toll free number 1-800-772-1213 are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later during the week. Thanks!


  1. Full licit and legal and inalienable and irrevocable and testmonial from full myLucia Nicoleta Glod(BadeaNandM) and my unic descendent so kid- Glod Andrei Ioan – till 2032 unic representant and decionals of we full my and my unic descedent Glod AndreiIoan total lifesand my worck ,my job resulat worck on 2010-2012present day25.01.2018 inclusiv anterior till 20.06.1989 and homeorck on ONU and WHO on 1987-1989-1993-1996-2010-a2012-presnet day25.01.2018(and worcks and feedback) is full -on WHO -AHRQ- Mr.Dierctor on WHO&AHRQMr.Gopal Khanna.

  2. I plan on retiring at the end of this year. I will be 66 1/2. I want to know if that is a good day 12/31/18 & will I receive my first SS Check that Jan 2019? If I waited another day to get my work holiday pay would that infringe on getting my Jan SS check?

  3. I have received letter from your office tell me that you send me a benefits check and the check return back to your office,the address was wrong.
    All my monthly payments send to me wiring by bank of Jordan,and you have my account number,
    Please send back my benefits amount through the bank of Jordan.
    My account number
    Bank of Jordan
    My mailing address
    P O BOX 142848
    Amman Jordan 11814
    Tell number*********
    Thank you very much

  4. How many credits do I have now? Do I get any credits if I was married to someone paying into social security? Why am I being penalised for deciding not to have an abortion and marry and have children at a young age?Having kids prevented me from furthering my education and forced me to take jobs involving cash, such as waitressing and cleaning houses. I real that the system is designed to deprive woman from a decent existence. Anyway I am trying to salvage my social security benefits and I would like to know how much better off I would be if I worked a job for 1 year (projected) and then applied for benefits. Can I get medical insurance through social security?

  5. I have been receiving disability check since 2008 do I still have to see about retirement or is disability the same. I stopped working on 2008 I am not familiar with how the system of SS works

    • Hello Norma! We automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits when you reach your full retirement age. Disability payments are established at the highest rate possible, and we use the highest years of your earnings to calculate your monthly benefit amount.
      We do not base your Social Security benefit amount on the severity of your disability. We base it on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. We hope this information helps.

  6. General question. I’m getting SS. I also have a PT job and am paying SS taxes on my earnings. How will I benefit from these taxes in the future? Will my SS payments increase accordingly each year, beyond standard COLA increases? I paid over $900 in SS taxes last year, over $400 the year before and will probably pay more than $1100 this year. Will I ever actually see any additional benefit in paying that much extra? Thank you.

    • Some individuals may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which they live. These services include Medicaid, free meals, housekeeping help, transportation or help with other problems. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office.
      Or you can visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information. We hope this helps!

  7. Most people need to plan far ahead for retirement because even with 2 good long careers a retired couple needs much more than SS to keep a good income flow!

  8. I will be 65 this year. My full retirement is 66. If I wait until next year can I file benefits under my husband’s social security and postpone drawing off mine.

    • Hi Cecilia, if you were born before January 2, 1954 and apply for benefits when you reach your full retirement age, you can choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.
      See our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information.

  9. Social Security told me that if you have prescription coverage with your company then don’t get part B, but when I plan to retire from work i’ll get the part B.

  10. I’ll be 62 this year. My husband wants me to sign up on his SS. I will only be getting a little over $500.00 a month. ????, If I out live him, will I get a raise on my SS?

    • Thank you for your question Elena. Yes, you will be allowed to work.
      Keep in mind that if you’re receiving disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, those benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits when you attain your full retirement age. If you work and are full retirement age or older, the amount you make at work will not affect your Social Security benefits, no matter how much you earn.
      You can return to work while receiving disability benefits. We have special rules to help you get back to work without jeopardizing your disability benefits. However, your earnings cannot exceed a certain amount. This is called the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit. In 2018, the SGA limit is $1,180 per month (or $1,970 for blind applicants). In addition to the amount of money you make, Social Security may also look at the number of hours you’re able to work. We hope this information helps.

  11. Why is what being said on this site end up on facebook for the whole web. You need better safe grauds on this site. So now I see this is not for the people at all. This is a joke.

  12. My name is Anthony Nguyen, my SSN# *** – ** – ***. I just start earning my social security benefit, My question is: why do i need to report your office whenever I go outside the USA for 30 consecutive days or longer?
    Thank you for answer my question.
    Sincerely yours!
    Anthony Nguyen

  13. My name is Anthony Nguyen. My SSN# *** – ** – ***. I just start earning my Social Security benefit, My question is: Why do I need to report whenever I go outside the USA for 30 consecutive days or longer ?
    Thank you for answer my question, you can reply by my e-mail address or call me at 1-503-799-7250
    Sincerely yours!
    Anthony Nguyen

    • Hello Anthony! We do not have access to personal information, therefore, we do not do direct messaging in this venue.
      If you receive benefits from Social Security, you have a legal obligation to report changes, which could affect your eligibility for disability, retirement, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
      We recommend that individuals living outside the United States contact their local U.S. embassy or consulate for any assistance related to Social Security programs and benefits. Also, our Office of International Operations home page provides more information to assist our customers living abroad.
      Just a reminder – Please be cautious about posting personal information on social media and communicating personal information via email, thanks.

  14. whatever you do do NOT use the Social security web site to file for your benefits! I applied for spousal benefits and my wife applied for her own benefits at age 62 – 6 months. I was filing at my full retirement age but am not planning to start drawing my social security until I turn 70. This was all to start in November 2017.

    What they set us up for was for me to get my normal retirement (at age 66) and my wife to get hers and spousal benefits based on mine.

    This still has not been corrected over three months later. They finally stopped paying me and benefits but keep paying my wife spousal benefits based on me social security. Looks like it will be MONTHS more before it gets corrected! Also I have to pay 2017 taxes on social security income that I will eventually have to return to them when they get this nightmare straightened out.

    My advise is NOT TO USE their web site for filing for your benefits.

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