The Most Important Social Security Table You’ll Ever See


(Kailey Hagen)

Preparing for retirement means more than saving money. You also need to understand how much you can safely withdraw each year and how much you can expect to receive from other sources, such as Social Security. In the latter case, there is a range of possible answers. It all depends on when you sign up for benefits.

If you want to squeeze as much money out of the program as possible, carefully weigh all your options. The table below should help you determine the optimal age to sign up.

Image source: Getty Images.

How the government determines your benefit

The first step in calculating your Social Security benefit is to calculate your Average Indexed Monthly Income (AIME). That’s your average monthly income over your 35 top-earning years with some corrections for inflation.

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The federal government takes this and puts it into the benefit formula that was in effect the year you turned 62. For those born in 1960, the formula looks like this:

  1. Multiply the first $1,024 of your AIME by 90%.
  2. Multiply any amount between $1,024 and $6,172 by 32%.
  3. Multiply any amount over $6,172 by 15%.
  4. Add your results from the three steps above and round to the nearest $0.10.

The formulas for other years are quite similar. The only things that change are the inflection points – $1,024 and $6,172 in the example above. The government maintains a list of inflection points from previous years if you want to determine the formula for another year.

The results of this step tell you your primary insurance amount (PIA). For some this is the same as your monthly benefit, but for many others it is not. If you want your PIA, you must defer payment until your full retirement age (FRA). That’s somewhere between 66 and 67 for today’s workers. If you wish, you can declare earlier or later, but then the government will have to perform a subsequent calculation to find out how much you will actually receive.

How your claim age affects your benefit

Each month you claim Social Security early, your FRA lowers your checks a little, while each month you delay raises them a little. The following table illustrates how much of your PIA you get at different claim ages depending on your FRA.

Claim age

Full retirement age of 66 years

Full retirement age of 67 years




























Data source: Social Security Administration.

The chart starts at 62 because the earliest you can sign up for Social Security and ends at 70 because that’s when you qualify for your maximum benefit. No one will force you to sign up at that point if you haven’t already, but delaying further will only cost you money.

From the above information, it may seem that postponing distributions is the wisest course of action, but this is not always the case. Deferring benefits can lead to a larger lifetime benefit as you age into your 80s or older, but it also forces you to fully self-fund your retirement until then. Not everyone can afford this.

Claiming early also doesn’t make sense for people with short life expectancies and those who have dependents who can also claim Social Security on their employment records. In these cases, signing up early can save you more money than waiting.

It’s up to you to decide which claim age is right for you, and it’s usually a good idea to do this before you retire. Having an idea of ​​how much to expect from Social Security can help you determine how much you need to save yourself to cover all of your retirement costs.

If you’re not sure when to sign up, creating a My Social Security account can help. There’s a tool here that can show you your estimated monthly Social Security benefit in any month between 62 and 70. You can also see how changes in your income may affect your future Social Security benefits.

Pick a few starting ages and multiply their monthly benefits by 12 to get your estimated annual benefits. Then multiply each of these by the number of years you expect to claim benefits to get your estimated lifetime benefit. For example, a $2,000 monthly benefit claimed for 20 years gives you a $480,000 lifetime benefit.

Go with the age that you think will give you the greatest lifetime benefit if you can wait that long. And don’t be afraid to change your Social Security strategy over time if your retirement plans change.

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The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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