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3 Social Security Steps to Take 5 Years Before You Retire

By Katie Brockman – Sep 3, 2020 at 10:46AM

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Before you retire, make sure you've made these critical Social Security moves.

When you're just a few short years away from retirement, it's time to start getting serious about your plans. It's especially important to consider how Social Security benefits will factor into your retirement strategy, because for many people those monthly checks make up a significant chunk of income.

Before you head into retirement, there are a few things you'll need to check off your to-do list, including these three Social Security moves.

Social Security cards with assorted bills

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Check your estimated benefit amount

By checking your Social Security statements, you can get an estimate of your future benefit amount based on your real earnings. However, a whopping 57% of Americans haven't checked their online statements, according to a report from the Social Security Administration.

By creating a mySocialSecurity account, you can see how much you can expect to receive in benefits once you begin claiming. Keep in mind, however, that this estimate assumes you'll be claiming at your full retirement age. If you plan to file benefits before that age, your monthly checks will be reduced by up to 30%.

2. Determine how much of your income will be replaced by your benefits

Once you have an idea of how much you will collect in benefits, think about how much you'll rely on Social Security versus other sources of income in retirement. Your benefits are only designed to replace around 40% of your pre-retirement income, but that number will vary depending on how much you're spending and how much you're receiving in benefits.

Consider how much you expect to spend each year in retirement, then determine how much of that will be covered by Social Security. In addition, be sure to think about how long your retirement savings will last. If your savings only last a few years, you may be left to depend solely on your benefits to make ends meet. By crunching these numbers now, you can determine whether you'll need to save more before you retire or consider cutting costs in your senior years to stretch every dollar.

3. Come up with a backup plan in case benefits are reduced

The future of Social Security is uncertain right now. The program is currently facing a cash shortage, and if Congress doesn't act soon benefits could be reduced by nearly 25% by 2034. In addition, if President Trump's plan to eliminate payroll taxes becomes a reality, the Social Security program could be wiped out entirely if Congress doesn't come up with another way to fund benefits.

Before you retire, think about what you might do if benefits are reduced or eliminated completely. You may need to supercharge your savings, consider picking up a side hustle, or even think about delaying retirement by a few years to give yourself more time to save. Although it's likely Congress will come up with a solution in the relatively near future, it's still a good idea to create a backup plan just in case.

For millions of Americans, Social Security benefits can make or break retirement. By taking steps now to determine how much you'll be able to rely on your benefits in retirement, you can ensure you're as prepared as possible for your senior years.

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