Social Security is an interesting program, and its specifics can change from year to year. Whether you think you'll file for benefits in 2022 or not, here are a few key numbers you need to know.
This is the average monthly benefit seniors on Social Security will receive in 2022. You'll notice, however, that this makes for an annual income of just under $20,000 -- and it shows that planning to live on Social Security alone isn't a great idea.
While the average monthly benefit does tend to change from year to year, one aspect of Social Security that doesn't change is that it's designed to replace about 40% of your pre-retirement income, assuming you're an average earner. Most seniors, however, need about twice that much money to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, which is why it's important to build your own retirement nest egg and not rely solely on Social Security.
This is the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) seniors are getting this year. It's also the largest raise the program has gotten in decades.
But while a 5.9% COLA may seem like something worth celebrating, the whole reason for it is that inflation levels have been extraordinarily high. As such, seniors on Social Security may not actually come out ahead financially this year, despite a higher raise.
This is the wage cap that will apply for 2022. Workers don't pay Social Security tax on all of their earnings. Rather, there's a cap that changes from year to year.
Last year, the wage cap sat at $142,800, so higher earners will end up paying more Social Security tax on their income this year. Those who are salaried workers get to split that tax bill with their employers. If you're self-employed, though, you'll have to foot that entire bill yourself.
This is the value of a work credit in 2022. Social Security eligibility hinges on earning enough work credits in your lifetime -- specifically, 40. The maximum number of work credits you can earn per year is four.
Last year, a work credit was worth $1,470 in earnings, but this year, workers will need to earn more money to get one. This change won't affect full-time workers, but if you work on a part-time basis, you may need to look at ramping up your hours if you're concerned about not snagging your four work credits this year.
This represents the earnings-test limit for 2022. If you're working and collecting Social Security at the same time, and you haven't yet reached full retirement age (FRA), there's a limit as to how much you can earn before you risk having some of your benefits withheld. (Note that once you reach FRA, you can earn any amount without it affecting your benefits.)
If your earnings exceed $19,560 this year and you haven't yet gotten to FRA, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld for every $2 you earn. That money won't be lost forever -- it'll be paid to you later on, once you reach FRA.
The earnings-test limit is higher if you'll be reaching FRA this year. In that case, it's $51,960. Beyond that point, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld for every $3 in earnings.
Know the right numbers
It's important to keep tabs on Social Security changes, whether you're close to claiming benefits or working toward them. Keep these numbers in mind so you're well-informed about Social Security and are empowered to make decisions that help you plan for taxes and retirement accordingly.