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How can I calculate my Social Security if I retire before my early Social Security age?

I tried to use the official website's calculator, but it required entering too much data, and the website calculator will default to benefits at 62 if a number less than 62 is entered, which wouldn't let me see the impact of some zero earnings years before starting Social Security.

Is there another calculator or spreadsheet available with more control over the earnings assumptions? Alternatively, how can I calculate this myself?

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    By "requiring entering too much data", do you mean that you don't have the required data and want to know where to find it? – Chris W. Rea Nov 2 '13 at 20:06
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    I have the data, but I'm looking for an equation. Plus, the website calculator will default to benefits at 62 if a number less than 62 is entered. – Kevin Meredith Nov 2 '13 at 20:08
  • Isn't there another option to put your own SS# in and get real numbers? – JoeTaxpayer Nov 3 '13 at 0:12
  • What good that would be without being able to estimate future income? – littleadv Nov 3 '13 at 1:11
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The calculator includes the following statement:

This calculator will accept a stop-work age up to 85. If the age you enter is less than 62, we estimate your benefit at age 62. If the age you enter is at least 62, we use that age when we estimate your benefit.

Enter the age you want to stop working. Lets say 55, it will put zeros from 56 to age 62, then calculate what you would receive at age 62. If you say you will stop at age 60, it will include fewer zeros. If you stop work after age 62 it will calculate your benefit at that age.

You can't get your social security payment before age 62 unless you are disabled. If you wait until after 62 to collect, no matter when you stop working, you get a bigger monthly check. If you work more than 35 years it will not include some years in the calculation. Which ones depend on your earnings record.

If you stop before age 62 then you are missing what could potentially be your highest yearning year, and would likely be replacing the year you worked flipping burgers in high school.

The calculator page you linked to has information on two more detailed calculators, at least one of which has to be downloaded. That should let you enter more detail about exactly when you want to retire.

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Unless you are disabled, you cannot collect Social Security benefits based on your earnings until you reach the age of 62.

In any case, your benefits are calculated based on your highest earnings for 35 years. Zero earnings years will not reduce your benefits if you have worked for at least 35 years.

For each of the 35 years it uses, Social Security will take your earnings (up to the contribution limit for that year, e.g. for 2010 the limit was $106,800) and multiply it by an index factor that depends on the actual year (e.g. for 2010 the index factor is 1 but for 1970 the index factor is 6.68176). The further back in time, the multiplier gets larger. This is an attempt by Social Security to make each year worth about the same insofar as adding to your benefits.

The sum of the 35 years of earnings, with each multiplied by the appropriate index, will yield what is called your AIME (average indexed monthly earnings). Your actual benefit is based on this number but also depends on your age.

Note that all of this information is available on the Social Security website and is also contained in a publication entitled "Guide to Social Security" published by Mercer (see their website: www.imercer.com/socialsecurity).

The main point is that zero earnings years will not impact the amount of your benefits if you have 35 years with non-zero earnings.

  • Wouldn't the last point only be true if the 35 years with non-zero earnings were at the maximum covered earnings for each year? That is, if the OP were to work an extra year such that the year's earnings exceeded (after indexing) one of the other 35, wouldn't that have increased his benefit? i.e. if it wasn't already at the maximum? – Chris W. Rea Nov 3 '13 at 3:55
  • If you work an extra year, and that year's indexed earnings exceed one of the 35, it will be used in the calculation. They always use your best 35 years. A year with 0 earnings is simply ignored. – Barry Nov 4 '13 at 1:28
  • But you can't ignore a year with 0 earnings from the perspective that there's an opportunity cost: Not working the extra year may result in reduced benefits, compared to working it and exceeding the indexed earnings of any of the prior top 35 years. – Chris W. Rea Nov 4 '13 at 3:16
  • What you say is true but the fact is, only the best 35 years are used in calculating your benefit. The fact that you could have increased your benefit by working another year is immaterial to that calculation. – Barry Nov 8 '13 at 2:06
  • If I understood the SS site's info correctly (not guaranteed!) the indexing is done for the year you turn 62, and doesn't change thereafter. – jamesqf Jan 6 at 19:10
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https://socialsecurity.tools/

It was created to use the same calculation as AnyPIA (the social security administration's own tool), but is much easier to use. AnyPIA requires half an hour of manual data entry and is confusing at best. This site simply requires you to copy/paste your earnings record, which only takes a few seconds.

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