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A Quick and Dirty Way to Determine Your PIA

PIA box

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 (  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.

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  1. Dillon says:

    Ok, so I have some questions. I am 31 years old, and I have 16 years on my earnings record (2012 will make it 17). My questions are: 1. Is it calculating 0’s for the other 14 years? 2. My FRA is $2289 and my spouse (starting at full retirement age) is $2263. These numbers seem awfully close to me, so my question is can that be right?? 3. You said, “the PIA is central to most of the calculations we do.” What calculations is this useful for? (Assuming my spouse is similar to me that means we will have roughly $4500/month in SS???) 4. Also the first couple of years I worked, I made less than $10,000/year…is the SS calculation assuming that I will work for another 36 years (until I am 67) and those small numbers will drop off?

    I don’t know if you know the answers to these questions but I thought you might. Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      In order, here are my answers to your questions:
      1. Your calculation on your SSA statement assumes that you will continue earning at the same rate as the most recently reported year’s earnings rate until you reach Full Retirement Age. So no, it is not calculating zeros for the additional 14 years (not sure what your 14 year reference is).
      2. I have no idea what your spouse’s earnings record is, so I can’t comment on whether the numbers are right or not.
      3. PIA is used to calculate retirement benefits, spousal benefits, survivor benefits and dependent’s benefits.
      4. Since your PIA for retirement purposes will be calculated upon your reaching age 62 and the calculations are based upon your highest 35 earnings years (indexed) out of the most recent 40 years of earnings, those earlier years of earnings will not be part of your final PIA calculation. If your lower earnings years were during that 40 year period then the lowest 5 years of earnings (indexed) would drop out of the calculation.

      Hope this helps – many of these answers are available in other posts on this blog, feel free to look around and educate yourself!


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