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Frequently asked retirement questions

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Q. Are my benefits figured on my last five years of earnings?
A. No. Retirement benefit calculations are based on your average earnings during a lifetime of work under the Social Security system. For most current and future retirees, we will average your 35 highest years of earnings. Years in which you have low earnings or no earnings may be counted to bring the total years of earnings up to 35.

Q. I stopped work at the end of last year at age 52. I don't expect to work again before I start my Social Security benefits when I turn 62. Will I still get the same benefit amount you showed for age 62 on the Social Security Statement that you recently sent me?
A. Probably not. When we averaged out your 35 highest years of earnings to estimate your benefits on your Statement, we assumed you would continue to work up to age 62, making the same earnings you made last year. If, instead, you have $0 earnings each year over the next 10 years, your average earnings will probably be less and so will your benefit. You can use our Benefit Calculators to see how this will affect your monthly benefit amount.

Q. Will my retirement pension from my job reduce the amount of my Social Security benefit?
A. If your pension is from work where you also paid Social Security taxes, it will not affect your Social Security benefit. However, pensions based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, the federal civil service and some state, local, or foreign government systems) probably will reduce the amount of your Social Security benefit. For more information, see the following fact sheets which you may review and download by clicking on the title: "Windfall Elimination Provision" and "Government Pension Offset."

Q. My wife and I both worked under Social Security. Her Social Security Statement says she can get $850 a month at full retirement age and mine says I would get $1450. Do we each get our own amount? Someone told me we could only get my amount, plus one-half of that amount for my wife.
A. Since your wife's own benefit is more than one-half of your amount, you will each get your own benefit. If your wife's own benefit were less than half of yours (that is, less than $725), she would receive her amount plus enough on your record to bring it up to the $725 amount.

Q. If I work after I start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, will I still need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on my earnings?
A. Yes. Any time you work in a job that is covered by Social Security--even if you are already receiving Social Security benefits--you and your employer must pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes on your earnings. The same is true if you are self-employed. You are still subject to the Social Security and Medicare taxes on your net profit.

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Last reviewed or modified Friday Sep 12, 2008
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