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Estimate Your Retirement Benefits with Tools from Social Security

Whether you’re getting close to retirement or planning for the future, check out Social Security’s retirement estimator.

The estimator gives you an idea of what your monthly Social Security benefits would be, based on your current record of Social Security earnings. Your actual benefit amount cannot be determined until you apply for benefits.

As you plan for your retirement, keep in mind that you’ll need about 70 percent of your pre-retirement earnings to maintain your standard of living. Social Security benefits will only make up a part of this percentage and should be supplemented by a pension, savings, and/or investments. Check out 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement.

When’s the Best Time To Retire?

Choosing when to retire is an important decision, but it’s also a personal choice and one you should carefully consider.

When’s the best time? There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Social Security offers a list of factors to consider in When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits. You’ll learn:

  • How your monthly benefit amount can differ based on the age at which you start receiving benefits;
  • How your decision could affect your family;
  • How you can retire and continue working; and
  • How you can get estimates of your benefit amounts online at Social Security’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov.

The Social Security website offers several tools to help you plan for your retirement, including an online Retirement Estimator to get immediate and personalized retirement benefit estimates. The estimator is a convenient and secure financial planning tool, allowing you to create “what if” scenarios. For instance, you can change your “stop work” dates or expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement options. Then when you’re ready, you can apply online for your retirement benefits.

Learn more about how you can start planning for your retirement and order your free copy of When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.

How to Protect Your Retirement Benefits If You Lose Your Job

Business closings, downsizings and reductions in hours may lead you to wonder what happens to your retirement benefits if you lose your job? Saving for retirement through an employer’s plan is an important part of your future financial security. The good news is you have protections under Federal law.

The Right To Receive Information

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) provides rules for those responsible for the management and oversight of your retirement plan. It also provides you with some rights and protections, including the right to receive information about your retirement plan.

When you leave your job, make sure you have a copy of your plan’s current summary plan description (SPD) and your individual benefit statement. If you don’t, request a copy.

The SPD tells you if and when you can collect your benefits or how to roll over your 401(k) account to a new employer’s plan or to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Your individual benefit statement lets you monitor your account balance or benefit.

What If Your Former Employer Goes Out of Business?

If your retirement savings remain in your former employer’s plan, your retirement funds generally should not be at risk even if a business closes. Employers must comply with Federal laws when establishing and running retirement plans, and the consequences of not prudently managing plan assets are serious.

Keep current on any changes the company makes, including changes of address, employer name, or mergers and give the plan any changes to your contact information.

If your benefits are in a traditional pension plan and your plan ends without enough money to pay the promised benefits, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will pay benefits up to a maximum guaranteed amount set by law.

Accessing Your Retirement Money

If you want to access your retirement money, review your SPD and individual benefit statement. Generally, if you are in a 401(k)–type defined contribution plan, your plan may provide for a lump sum distribution or a rollover of your retirement money to a new employer’s plan or an IRA when you leave the company.

If you are in a defined benefit pension plan, your benefits begin at retirement age and are less likely to be available earlier. Contact your plan administrator if you have questions about accessing your benefits.

Keep in mind unless you rollover your funds into another retirement account you may have to pay income taxes and a penalty for early withdrawal. Also check with your state unemployment office to see if it will impact your ability to receive unemployment compensation. Withdrawing retirement savings early means you will have less money for retirement.

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers ERISA. EBSA has a number of publications about retirement benefit plans and the protections noted above available at www.dol.gov/ebsa. If you have questions about your retirement plan, contact EBSA at www.askebsa.dol.gov or call 1-866-444-3272.

To learn about other free resources to help you no matter what your financial situation, sign up for our e-mail list or visit our page.

What percent of an IRA does a person have to take each month after they are 70 years old?

Asked by Charlie on Facebook.

If you have a traditional IRA, you must receive a minimum distribution starting when you are 70 1/2 years old. In order to figure out what that amount is, you must first find your account balance on December 31 of the previous year. Then divide that number by the applicable distribution period or life expectancy. You can find those numbers in the Life Expectancy Tables in the IRS publication on IRAs

Learn more about traditional IRA distributions

If you have a Roth IRA, you are not required to take distributions at any age. The minimum distribution rules that apply to traditional IRAs do not apply to Roth IRAs while the owner is alive.

Learn more about distribution rules and Roth IRAs

Start Saving For Retirement

Once you’re retired, you’ll need to maintain 70 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income to continue your current quality of life. That’s not always easy to do. Meanwhile, it’s possible that you’ll be retired for a long time, maybe 20 years or more, because life expectancies are getting longer.

In other words, retirement is expensive.

So in order to retire comfortably, you have to save for it. Because of how investments have historically performed over long periods of time, a little bit saved now can be worth a lot more in the future.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Retirement.

This video explains why starting now matters.

Getting close to retirement age? Take the Mystery out of Retirement.