We’ve gone over the long, painful, detailed way to calculate the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) in many different articles and my book. The PIA is central to most of the calculations we do, such as your own benefit (reduced or increased if you file early or late), survivor benefits, and the like.
Sometimes it is difficult to actually know find out what your PIA actually is. Here’s a quick and dirty way to figure it out:
Go to the Social Security website and get your statement (www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement). On page 2 at the top you’ll see either your Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefit amount, or the amount at your current age if you’re over FRA. Oftentimes we refer to this FRA amount as your PIA, but nearly always with a qualification. This is because the benefit amount illustrated on this statement is assuming that you continue earning at your current level between now and Full Retirement Age. What if you died today, what is your PIA today, if no more earnings went on your record?
In addition, if you’re over FRA that amount will not equal your PIA, it will be your DRC-enhanced (Delayed Retirement Credit) benefit amount. Keep reading down the page.
When you get to the part about the benefit for your surviving spouse who has reached Full Retirement Age – that’s the ticket! This amount is always equal to your current PIA, without any enhancement by future earnings. A way to double-check this figure is to take the benefit for your surviving child under age 18 and divide by .75, since a child under age 18 is due a benefit equal to 75% of the decedent-parent’s PIA. The amount should come out equal (roughly) to the surviving spouse figure.
And that’s it – now you can go off and do your calculations based on your current PIA. Keep in mind that if you’re younger than age 60 your calculations are likely to depart quite a bit from the way reality will work out.A Social Security Owner's Manual, 2013 Edition, can be purchased by clicking this link. If you'd prefer the Kindle version (and let's face it, ALL the cool kids do!), you can find that at this Kindle version link.