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How Much Will Social Security Pay Me?

Millions of Americans rely on Social Security benefits to make ends meet in retirement. But given how complex the program is, many don't understand how to figure out how much money they'll get from Social Security.

In the following video from The Motley Fool's series on retirement investing, sponsored by TD Ameritrade, Fool consumer finance expert Dayana Yochim talks to Dan Caplinger, the Fool's director of investment planning, about figuring out your Social Security benefit. Dan notes that your base benefit amount is based on your 35 top-paying years, with the average adjusted for inflation serving as the starting point for the calculation. Then, the Social Security Administration puts that average into a formula, paying $0.90 per $1 of earnings up to a certain amount based on your retirement date, and then $0.32 and $0.15 per $1 of earnings at two break points above that amount. But Dan points out that you can get bigger or smaller benefits than that depending on whether you take Social Security earlier than or later than your full retirement age. Still, it's critical to know your base benefit amount so you can make smart decisions about your personal Social Security strategy.

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Get all the details about your Social Security benefits and how you can make them as big as possible. In our brand-new free report, "Make Social Security Work Harder For You," our retirement experts give their insight on making the key decisions that will help ensure a more comfortable retirement for you and your family. Click here to get your copy today.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (36)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 10:11 AM, gadfly1000 wrote:

    > up to a certain amount based on your retirement date

    1) It's based upon your lifetime average MONTHLY earnings (that have been adjusted for inflation only until you turn 60).

    2) It's not "a certain amount." The amount before the first break point in 2014 is $816 and that figure is adjusted annually for "inflation." The second break point is also defined. Why not give the figures if you're expecting people to plan from this information?

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 12:21 PM, PeteInSanFran wrote:

    Per the SSA admin document at "We use the highest 35 years of indexed earnings in a benefit computation" not lifetime earnings.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 3:11 PM, Disgustedman wrote:

    Personally, I don't know how much they will. I have 8 more years till I retire (62) and they say if I earn $16K a year till then, I'll get $728 a month.

    Well, here's hoping the body holds out for that long.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 7:24 AM, TheRealOrange wrote:

    Or, just create an account at "my Social Security" to review your entire earnings record and obtain SSA estimates for benefits based on your own record:

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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