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Social Security Income Replacement Rates


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It’s a fact that Social Security retirement benefits are not designed to provide retirement income in the same ratio to all levels of wage earners. The system, being a social insurance system, is designed to benefit folks with lower lifetime income levels at a higher rate than those with higher income levels.

So, what are the replacement rates? Of course it is different for each individual, but some examples are listed in the table below. This is based on someone who is reaching Full Retirement Age (FRA) in 2019, and who is filing for benefits as of reaching FRA:


Average Lifetime Earnings
(annual, indexed)

FRA Social Security Benefit

Replacement Rate

















This is just a small sample of various levels of lifetime average income. The average income over your lifetime is indexed to wage inflation, making some of your earlier earnings years much higher to account for inflation over time. The table above shows how at lower income levels Social Security replaces a much higher ratio of the average lifetime indexed income. Therefore, at higher income levels, a higher amount of savings must be laid aside in order to ensure that adequate income is available for retirement.

Filing at an earlier age before FRA will reduce the benefit amount. This will drive down the replacement rate, naturally. For example, if the person with a $20,000 lifetime income average filed for benefits at age 62, the replacement rates would be reduced to 46%, with benefits of approximately $9,112.

Vice versa, filing at any age after FRA up to age 70 will increase the benefit amount and the replacement ratio. If the person with a $100,000 average lifetime earnings delays her benefit to age 70, this would result in an annual benefit of $40,797 and a replacement rate of almost 41%.

Don’t take this to mean that the system is broken or unfair – it’s working exactly as it was intended to, by providing a measure of insurance to those who need it most.

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