Getting old is rarely pleasant, but one thing most of us can look forward to is collecting Social Security payments. While the Social Security benefit calendar isn't the simplest, there are some simple rules of thumb for knowing the schedule of when you'll receive your monthly payment. Social Security payment dates depend on your birthday.
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The Social Security Administration (SSA) even offers a handy calendar with all the details.
Here's the scoop: Payments are generally made to each retirement beneficiary on one Wednesday per month. Which Wednesday exactly depends on your birth date:
- If your birthday falls on the 1st to the 10th of your birth month, you'll receive your payments on the second Wednesday of each month.
- If your birthday falls on the 11th to the 20th of your birth month, you'll receive your payments on the third Wednesday of each month.
- If your birthday falls on the 21st to the 31st of your birth month, you'll receive your payments on the fourth Wednesday of each month.
There's a little twist, though, for those who were receiving benefits before May of 1997. They are paid on the 3rd of each month -- or on the 1st or 2nd if the 3rd falls on a weekend. It's the same for those who receive both Social Security retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and those who live abroad.
How much to expect from Social Security payments
The average Social Security retirement benefit was recently $1,352 per month, or about $16,200 per year -- not exactly a princely sum. That's an average, though, meaning that while some people struggle to get by with less than that, others collect more. If your income throughout your working life was well above average, you can expect to collect more than average in Social Security benefits -- though not more than about $32,000, as that was recently the overall maximum monthly Social Security benefit for those retiring at their full retirement age.
You can get a better sense of how much to expect from Social Security in retirement from the Social Security Administration itself. It will send you a statement every few years with your expected benefits, but you can use its online Retirement Estimator tool any time. You can also get a clearer idea of your expected benefits by setting up a my Social Security account with the SSA.
What to do
If you find that the Social Security payments you can expect don't seem like they'll be enough, you may be able to take some steps to increase them. For example, you can make your Social Security benefits bigger by delaying collecting them. For every year that you delay from your normal retirement age to age 70, you'll enlarge your payments by about 8%. Delay from 67 to 70, for example, and you'll get checks that are 24% bigger. (Of course, you'll be collecting fewer checks overall. Starting to collect as early as age 62 or at your normal retirement age will mean smaller checks, but many more of them, and is not a bad move for most folks.)
You can also plan to supplement your Social Security payments with income from your own savings and investments. Dividends, interest, annuities, and other things can augment the income you'll live off of in retirement.
Take some time to think about not only what the Social Security payment schedule is, but about the amounts you can expect and how well they will serve you. If you think you'll need more, come up with a plan.