When it’s time for the average American to retire, one particular question seems to invariably come up: can one live off of Social Security checks?
In order to answer that question, it is important to be aware of the basics of the Social Security program. To even qualify for Social Security benefits, an individual must have worked for at least ten years or have amassed at least forty work credits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) also says on its website that “workers planning for their retirement should be aware that retirement benefits depend on age at retirement.”
For retirees who decide to collect Social Security at age sixty-two—the earliest age to do so—the maximum amount will be $2,364. But if an individual has the financial resources to wait until the current full retirement age (FRA) of sixty-six years and four months, the maximum benefit amount is about $3,240.
As for the absolute maximum benefit, it currently stands at a rather impressive $4,194 for those who wait until age seventy to file.
Average Benefit Disappoints
Unless one qualifies for the absolute max benefit, which very few people do, many retirees might be shocked to find out that their monthly checks really won’t go that far. In fact, the average Social Security benefit only comes in at about $1,600 per month.
“Your Social Security check is based on your income during your working years, but it’s not intended to replace your paycheck. It’s only supposed to provide about 40 percent of preretirement income for average workers,” writes personal finance expert Kailey Hagen at the Motley Fool.
Hagen goes on to advise that Americans should make retirement savings a higher priority while working. This can be accomplished by making regular contributions to retirement accounts and estimating how much income one will need in retirement.
If one’s current income is not enough, Hagen recommends asking for a raise, finding a new job, or considering working part-time after retirement. Lastly, Americans struggling to save enough can make the unpopular decision of delaying retirement.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.