How is ssa calculated
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a governmental agency responsible for administering social security benefits to millions of Americans. One of the most crucial aspects of the SSA’s work is calculating the amount of benefits a person is eligible to receive during their retirement years. This article aims to shed light on how the SSA calculates these amounts, including taking into account an individual’s working history, earnings, and other relevant factors.
1. Earnings Record and Indexed Monthly Earnings (IME)
The first step in calculating your SSA benefits involves creating an earnings record based on your Social Security-taxed earnings during your working years. Your earnings record contains information about the amount you earned each year and helps determine your benefit amount. To ensure that your benefits reflect the increased cost of living over time and changes in average wage levels, the SSA indexes these annual wages.
2. Determining Your Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME)
Once your indexed monthly earnings (IME) are established for each working year, the next step is to calculate your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). AIME is calculated by adding up your total indexed earnings for your highest 35 earning years and then dividing by the total number of months in those 35 years (420 months). The result is a dollar figure used as the basis for determining your primary insurance amount (PIA).
3. Calculating Your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)
After determining your AIME, the Social Security Administration uses a specific formula to determine your primary insurance amount (PIA) – which is the basis for all types of social security retirement benefits you may be eligible for. The PIA calculation involves using bend points – specific dollar amounts based on average national wages – and applying them to your AIME.
As of 2021, the bend points are as follows:
– 90% on the first $996 of AIME
– 32% on any amount between $996 and $6,002
– 15% on amounts above $6,002
The product of each segment is then summed up to find your PIA. This figure represents the benefit you would receive at full retirement age.
4. Adjusting PIA for Early or Late Retirement
While the full retirement age varies depending on your year of birth, you can claim social security benefits as early as 62 years old or delay your benefits until the age of 70. If you choose to claim benefits before or after your full retirement age, the SSA will adjust your PIA accordingly. Retiring early results in a reduced benefit amount, while delaying retirement yields a higher monthly benefit.
Understanding how the Social Security Administration calculates benefits can be beneficial for informed retirement planning. Factors like working history, earnings, and the age at which you claim benefits all impact the amount you receive from social security. Being aware of these factors and knowing how calculations are made can help ensure that you make informed decisions about your social security benefits and enjoy a financially secure retirement.