4 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

January 25, 2018 • By

woman sitting at desk looking at computer 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.

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About the Author


Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


Please review our Comment Policy before leaving a comment.

  1. Kurt Meyer

    Dear Sir:
    Do a married couple BOTH receive their full social security benefits while both are still alive? Please advise and thank you.
    Kurt Meyer

  2. Durel J.Matherne Jr. and Nancy T, Matherne

    Please send replacement copies of our income for 2018.

  3. Beulah Elaine Murchinson

    I have tried to log into my account several time with no success, each time I enter the number you send me it says its the wrong number can you help me?

    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi, Beulah. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. If you are still unable to access an account or encounter a problem with your personal my Social Security account, you may:
      •Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. At the voice prompt, say “helpdesk”; or
      •Contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  4. Vladimir Khudyakov

    I am 93. I stopped to work as a CNA for my disabled wife after she passed away a year ago. Now my SS=$714.00, and my SSI = $77.00, total $791.00. Could my SS be increased as a survival of my wife?

    • Vladimir Khudyakov

      I need a Reply

  5. M Godward

    I cannot get any ;info from SSA as my password is never right. How do I get a report update mailed to me? Where is there a phone #.

    • Ann C., Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi. If you are still unable to create access your account or encounter a problem with your personal my Social Security account, you may:
      •Call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. At the voice prompt, say “helpdesk”; or
      •Contact your local Social Security office. Your local office can also assist with a benefit verification. We hope this helps.

  6. Robert M. Gill

    I will be 66, my full SSN retirement age on 3 July 2020.
    Q1. To get credit for the full 66, should I request start of SSN benefits in July 2020 or August 2020?
    Q2. What is the process for starting SSN retirement benefits. I have looked at my online account and do not see anyway to do it online.
    Q3. A friend said we have to make some choice when turning our full retirement age (66 for me), even if we do not decide to start taking the retirement benefit. Is this true?

    • Vonda VanTil, Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Robert, thank you for your question. If you wait until your full retirement age to being receiving Social Security retirement benefits, you will get your full benefit. If your full retirement age is 66 and you turn 66 on July 3, you will attain your full retirement age in July. One exception to that is for individuals that are born on the 1st of the month. We figure their benefit (and their full retirement age) as if their birthday was in the previous month.

      At Social Security, we’re often asked, “What’s the best age to start receiving retirement benefits?” The answer is that there’s not a single “best age” for everyone and, ultimately, it’s your choice. The most important thing is to make an informed decision. Base your decision about when to apply for benefits on your individual and family circumstances.

      As an individual, you have four basic choices when it comes to work and retirement. Consider the four options laid out in our benefit matrix to help you make the best decision for you.

      Our system is set up to take applications four months in advance, and when you’re ready, you can apply for your benefits online. We hope this is helpful.

  7. Pardeep Kumar

    I have already started to plan for my retirement. I don’t have to worry about it because I started my own blog. You can start it right away with some little learning online. See here is my simple entertainment blog which I started about famous director robert b weide. The directed by robert b weide meme are most trending now a days. Check out my blog and ping me if you need any help.

  8. Jackson Betscher

    Can a retired person earn as little as $10,000-12,000 annually working part-time and raise social security benefits??

    • Vonda VanTil, Public Affairs Specialist

      Hi Jackson, thanks for using our blog. Generally, if you continue to work while receiving retirement benefits, your monthly benefit amount may increase. Each year we review the records for all Social Security recipients who work. If your latest year of earnings turns out to be one of your highest years, we refigure your benefit and pay you any increase due. This is an automatic process, and benefits are paid in December of the following year. For example, in December 2020, you should get an increase for your 2019 earnings if those earnings raised your benefit. The increase would be retroactive to January 2020. Check out our web page Receiving Benefits While Working for additional details.

  9. Charlene Matsuoka

    My husband and I were married for 30 years and we decided to go our separate ways and get a divorce, 5 years ago.
    My ex husband is 62. Can I collect from his social security.


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