How Much Social Security Did High- and Low-Income Retirees Get in 2023?

Many people have unrealistic ideas of what Social Security can do for them. That's why it can be helpful to look at how much current retirees are actually bringing home, so you can plan for what role your benefits will play in your own life. Here's how much the highest and lowest earners can actually expect to receive when they get their monthly checks. Two adults taking a selfie.

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This is the amount retirees can expect from Social Security

In 2024, the maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit is $4,873 for someone who retires at 70. It's $3,822 for those who retire at full retirement age which is 66 and 8 months for those turning 66 this year. , And it's $2,710 for someone who retires at the age of 62 in 2024. The minimum benefit is $50.90 for someone who had just 11 years of qualifying work, or $1,066.50 for someone who worked for at least 30 years. These are the extremes based on how much or little a person earned.

Most people get more than the minimum and less than the maximum though. In 2023, for example, a low earner with 45% of the U.S.'s average wage would receive a Social Security benefit of around $1,235.33 a month (or $14,824 a year) if they retired at the age of 65, while a higher earner with earnings equal to 160% of the average wage would find themselves with around $2,695.42 (or $32,345 a year).

Your benefits won't support you alone -- so plan accordingly

As you can see, the minimum available Social Security benefit and the amount most lower-income workers get is not going to be enough to live on. But the amount that high earners get really isn't either. To qualify for such a large monthly Social Security check, workers have to earn a lot of money -- so even a monthly Social Security check of $4,873 isn't going to allow them to maintain their standard of living.

The reality is, Social Security benefits are designed to replace about 40% of pre-retirement income, although they replace more (around 1/2) for lower earners and less (around 30%) for higher earners. No matter what, this is just not going to be enough to be your sole support source as you will typically need about 80% of the income you were earning when you were working.

And, the reality is, Social Security benefits aren't supposed to be enough to live on. Social Security retirement benefits were conceived to be one of three legs on a three-legged stool supporting your retirement. Pensions and savings were the other two legs. Pensions these days are very hard to come by, though, and Social Security's formula hasn't changed and probably won't (at least not in a way that gives you more money).

Understanding the amount of income that retirement benefits actually provide should be a wake-up call to convince you to invest and save for your future. Since you'll need money in a retirement plan to replace around 40% or more of your earnings, you should start working on investing diligently to build the nest egg you'll need before retirement comes along.

The good news is, if you realize early that Social Security can't be your sole support source, you can take action to invest and be ready to supplement it when the time comes so you can enjoy your financial security in your later years. Get started investing today -- you owe it to your future self for a more secure tomorrow.

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