Social Security Benefits

How much you get depends on when you start getting payments.

By Phil Konstantin - March 2014

As I am nearing the age when I qualify for Social Security, I have been doing a little research. Depending on when you were born, you qualify for "full benefits" some time between between ages 65 and 67 (See Chart #1 below). You can enroll before then at 62, but you get less per month. You can wait to enroll until age 70, and you get more per month. There are differing opinions as to when is the best time to retire based on these factors. I will not get into that here.

The amount you qualify for all depends on how many years you have worked, and your income over those years. Someone who averaged $20,000 a year for 40 years will get less than someone who averaged $50,000 a year for 40 years. You can determine the exact amount using calculators on the Social Security website.

All of the diagrams below are based on someone earning enough to qualify for $1000 a month at full benefits. This way you can, at least, get an idea of what the relative benefits would be to retiring early, on time, or later.

I put together 3 diagrams to help show the following things:
1. How old you have to be to qualify for full benefits based on your year of birth.
2. How much you would get each month depending on how old you are when you start.
3. How much you would get over your entire lifetime depending on how old you are when you start, and how long you live.

This is only for Social Security payments in the United States. It does not include other retirement or savings plans. Chart #1, titled "Age To Receive Full Social Security Benefits", came directly from the SS website. To the best of my knowledge, this information was accurate when it was prepared. This should not be considered as financial advise. I am not suggesting you do anything specific. Laws change, so contact a qualified expert to decide what is best for you.

Chart #1

This chart came directly from the Social Security website in March 2014.

Chart #2

This chart show how much you lose or gain by starting early, or delaying your retirement.

Chart #3

This chart shows how much you would be paid over your lifetime depending on when you starting getting payments, and how long you live.

Social Security (SS) Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

Did you know that if you retired from certain government jobs, you won't get all of the Social Security (SS) benefits you earned from non-government jobs? This applies to me since I retired from the Highway Patrol.

Social Security (SS) Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) information for people getting a government pension, who also worked at non-government jobs.

Basically, if you get a pension from most Federal, State or City governments which did not collect SS taxes, the WEP law says you are NOT entitled to receiving 100% of the SS Benefits you may have earned if you also worked other jobs which did collect SS taxes.

For example, I worked for the CHP for 20 years. The CHP has its own pension, and did not collect SS taxes. I also have 40 years of working at other jobs which did collect SS taxes. According to the WEP, I am only entitled to about 60% of the SS monthly benefits I would normally receive from my non-government jobs.

This gets complicated. Hey, it's taxes, right? For each year you earned a "substantial" amount at a SS tax collected job, you get a little bit more of the SS benefits you actually earned. There are several SS publications which can help you figure out how much of the SS benefits you earned, you will actually get. One form shows you how much you have to earn in each specific year to make that year qualify toward you total number of years worked. The more qualified years you work, the more you get of your SS benefits. The SS website has an online calculator which can hep you figure all of this out. To do all of this, you will need a copy of your annual Social Security Statement which shows how much you earned each year.

Here are the websites which can help you:

Retirement Planner: Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP)

Yearly Substantial Earnings Chart

Online Calculator (WEP Version)

since September 4, 2005