Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

How to get an estimate of your Social Security benefits

- By Sandra Block Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Q: How can I find out how much I’ll get from Social Security when I retire?

A: The best way to estimate how much you’ll receive in Social Security benefits is to sign up for an account at www.ssa.gov. Once you have an online account, you can review your Social Security statement, which provides a record of your earnings history and an estimate of the benefits you will receive. (If you don’t open an account, you can receive a benefit estimate in the mail if you’re 60 or older. Social Security typically mails an annual statement three months before your birthday.)

In 2021, the Social Security Administra­tion

redesigned its benefits statement to make it more informativ­e and user-friendly. The new statement provides estimates for up to nine different ages, depending on when you file for benefits. It also provides a record of your earnings history, which you should review periodical­ly for errors. If an employer failed to correctly report your earnings to Social Security, you could lose thousands of dollars in benefits.

For a fee, online services will provide a more detailed analysis of your options and recommend ways to coordinate your benefits with other sources of retirement income. For example, you can get a personaliz­ed report from Social Security Solutions (www.socialsecu­ritysoluti­ons.com), which provides Social Security software and counseling services, starting at $19.95. The online tool offered by Maximize My Social Security (www.maximizemy­socialsecu­rity. com; $40) provides recommenda­tions on the most effective filing strategies.

Q: I’ve heard about a strategy that allows the higher-earning spouse to file for spousal benefits until age 70, enabling that

spouse to build delayed-retirement credits while still receiving income from Social Security. How does that work and is it still allowed? A:

This strategy, known as “restricted applicatio­n,” only applies to individual­s born on or before Jan. 1, 1954. That means it will be obsolete after Jan. 1, 2024, when those individual­s will already be 70.

If you qualify, here’s how it works: At full retirement age, the higher-earning spouse claims spousal benefits, and the lower earner claims his or her own benefits. At age 70, the higher earner switches to his or her own benefits, which have been boosted by delayed-retirement credits. The lower earner claims his or her own benefits or spousal benefits, whichever are higher.

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OLESIA BEKH/DREAMSTIME

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