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Social Security Q&A: How Can I Calculate My Retirement Benefit?

Question: How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate?

Answer: We suggest you use the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record, so it’s a personalized, instant picture of your future estimated benefit. Also, you can use it to test different retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age 62, 70 or anytime in between.

Question: How do I earn Social Security credits?

Answer: “Social Security credit” (sometimes referred to as a “quarter of coverage”) is the measure of your work under the Social Security program. Social Security uses your total covered yearly earnings from both wages and/or net earnings from self-employment to compute Social Security credits. The amount needed for a credit increases automatically each year as average wages increase. For example, in 2014, you earn one credit for each $1,200 of wages or self-employment income. You can receive a maximum of four credits for any year. Generally, you need 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading “How You Earn Credits,” available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.