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What Your Social Security Statement Is Telling You

making a statement

Photo credit: jb

There is a portion of your Social Security statement that is often a source of misunderstanding. The portion I’m talking about is the projection chart on the right-hand side of the first page.

If you’ll take a look at this portion of the statement, you’ll see a projection of your Social Security retirement benefits, at each age between 62 (unless you’re already past that age) up to age 70. Also listed elsewhere on the statement are the amounts that you would receive for Disability Benefits, as well as amounts that your family would receive upon your death as survivors.

What gets missed for many folks is the last line of the corresponding paragraph (just left of the chart) which states:

These personalized estimates are based on your earnings to date and assume you continue to earn $xx,xxx per year until you start your benefits.

With that short phrase comes a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. This statement means that, assuming that you are something less than age 70, the statement reflects an assumption of your future earnings from now until those projected ages listed in the chart. Those amounts provided are based upon the assumption that you will continue earning at the rate most recently reported to SSA, usually what was on your tax return in the previous year.

If, for example, you chose to stop working at age 62 and delay receiving benefits until FRA, the benefit that you’ll receive will likely be less than the amount shown on your statement, because you did not continue earning at your current rate to FRA, as the projection assumes.

Another example is where you continue working, but your income has been reduced, due to layoff or other dramatic change in your employment. With the “great resignation” going on over the past few years, it’s not hard to imagine a situation where this might be the case.

Your future income might also be higher than the assumption, which could potentially result in a higher benefit than the chart indicates.

There are several calculators available on the Social Security website that can help you to get a clearer picture of your actual benefit if your projected earnings will be something different than what you’ve experienced up to the present (or actually, up to last year, since that’s all the more that is generally covered with the statement).


  1. walter choromanski says:

    my wife was able to take a reduced benefit, while her benefits increased 8% every year. We are very happy with that decision. She will turn 70 in a few months. Since she has already “filed”, does she need to do anything, or will SSS automatically raise her monthly payment? Trying to avoid hours calling SSS. Thanks

    1. jblankenship says:

      I wouldn’t leave it to chance. You should be able to take care of her filing for her own benefit online, it’s relatively straightforward.

  2. MIKE says:

    when I go to rhe ss website to look at my statement it has an option to enter what you think your future income will be including zero.
    it’s right below the area you are talking about.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, absolutely. That’s what the last paragraph is referring to, among other calculators on the website.

      1. MIKE says:

        sorry Jim, I read that paragraph as having to look for the calculator.
        I was just pointing out it was right there in that section.

        1. jblankenship says:

          No need for apologies, I probably should have mentioned that particular tool in the article in the first place. At any rate, there are definitely calculators and tools available for free on the SSA website that can help you to avoid misunderstanding your potential benefits.

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