Social Security Income and What You Can Expect

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They say people nowadays don’t believe that they will have Social Security to rely on in the future. I say good riddance, because maybe that will get them saving!

Since most of us are only saving about 4-5% of our income in this country, this is a moot point. We need Social Security as a source of funding for our future living expenses.


How do you find out how much Social Security income you can count on in the future? There is a good tool on the Social Security Administration called the Retirement Estimator at It provides an estimate of Social Security Retirement Benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record generally for those who have enough Social Security credits to be eligible, and who are not yet receiving benefits. The site gives chapter and verse on how all of this is calculated, and what are the caveats and disclaimers.

Short of getting this estimate directly from the SSA, here is a rough guideline for how much you can expect to receive. It takes into account that the percentage of your monthly income that will be replaced by Social Security benefits is subject to a sliding scale, from 90% to 15% up to $90,000. Earnings that are above $90,000 don’t count in the formula.

For instance, if your pre-retirement income was $20,000/year, you may be able to expect Social Security to replace 69% of your income. If your income was $90,000/year you may be able to expect Social Security to replace only 36%.

I say “may be able” to expect because multiple factors come into play. For example, another factor that affects how much Social Security you can expect is the year you were born vs. the age you choose to retire. Depending on when you were born, your “full retirement age” will vary, and your monthly benefits may be reduced if you retire before your full retirement age.

Social Security is a true safety net for those with lower employment income because it replaces a decent percentage of that income once you start receiving benefits. It is only a small contributor for those used to earning, and spending, more.

2 thoughts on “Social Security Income and What You Can Expect”

    1. Hi Suzanne! Great question. The unique details of each person’s situation will affect the answer. In general, someone who leaves the workplace for a period of time to raise a family may be eligible for Social Security benefits, but that time away from work may result in the benefits being lower than they would have been otherwise.

      Here’s why. To calculate your Social Security benefits, the 35 years in which you earned the most are used. If you work more than 35 years, each higher-earning year cancels out a year when you earned less. However, if you don’t work for at least 35 years, zeros are averaged in. This lowers your benefits.

      I hope this helps! If you’re interested in digging further, you can read an interesting article about Social Security here:

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