Estimating Your Social Security Income

Couple going over finances.

By Mike Batista, AARP Montana

How Much Will I Receive in Social Security?

While Social Security was never intended to be the only source of retirement income, it is a core part of Americans’ retirement security and often the only long-term, inflation-proof source of income for many Americans. In fact, 44 percent of Montanans age 65 and older rely on the program for at least half of their income.

How to Estimate Your Social Security Income

The amount of Social Security you will receive depends on a number of factors, such as your lifetime income history, the age at which you claim benefits and, in some cases, your marital status.

Earnings history: Retirement benefits are based on your average monthly income from work where you paid Social Security payroll taxes. To calculate your benefits, the program looks at your 35 highest-earnings years, adjusted to reflect historical changes in U.S. wages.

Claiming age: Your benefit calculation also depends on when you start collecting Social Security. You can start as early as age 62, but you will receive a larger monthly payment the longer you wait. Delaying until age 70 will maximize your monthly payment.

Marital status: If you are or were married, it could affect what type of benefit you receive. Spouses could be eligible for benefits based on their partner’s income, rather than their own, if their spouse had considerably higher earnings. The same may go for divorced former spouses, if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. If your spouse (or ex-spouse) has died, you may be eligible for survivor benefits based on their earnings.

If you are looking for an estimate of your future monthly Social Security income, check out AARP’s Social Security Calculator. This resource can help you decide when to claim and show you how to maximize your benefits based on your circumstances.

When Should I Collect Social Security?

Generally, it is best to collect Social Security as late as possible. Your monthly payments will be larger the longer you wait, up to age 70. Whenever you claim, your benefit amount will reflect past cost-of-living adjustments, so you don’t risk losing ground to inflation by waiting to collect. Find the AARP Social Security Calculator at Ultimately, though, this is a question only you can answer, based on your own situation: your age, health, monthly expenses and other sources of retirement income, such as pensions, annuities, or savings.
For a tailored look at your prospective financial future, try the AARP Retirement Calculator. This tool can help you determine how much money you’ll need to live the retirement you want, based on information about your household status, savings, Social Security income and lifestyle expectations.

Find the AARP Retirement Calculator at

Mike Batista leads the advocacy efforts for AARP Montana. MSN

About AARP Montana: For over 50 years, AARP has been working right here in big sky country to improve the lives of Montanans 50 plus. As one of Montanan’s largest non-profit membership organizations, with more than 134,000 members, we advocate for what matters most to families: personal fulfillment, health security and financial stability. We’re committed to helping already great communities across Montana become even better places for people of all ages by granting funds through our Community Challenge Grant Program. We fund small dollar, big impact projects for public parks & trails, transportation, safe streets, housing and more. We also connect Montanans with information and resources, as well as help people connect with others who share their interests and passions—like music! As a main sponsor of the Helena Symphony’s Masterworks Series, we’re proud to help bring quality concerts to the community. By fighting on issues that matter most to Montana families and providing trusted information, we’re helping to empower Montanans to choose how they live as they age. As a nonpartisan organization, AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to candidates, campaigns, or political action committees. Visit us at or follow @AARPMontana on social media.

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