What Is the Average Social Security Check?

The average monthly Social Security retirement benefit is $1,668. How much you get depends on your lifetime earnings and age at retirement.

Written by Laurel Kenner / July 12, 2022

Quick Bites

  • The average monthly Social Security retirement benefit check is $1,668.
  • The basic amount depends on how much you’ve earned during your lifetime.
  • People who start drawing benefits at 62 receive 30% less than if they had waited until full retirement age.
  • Your benefit will increase if you wait to collect until you’re 70, but not past that.

Social Security retirement checks can vary widely, depending on how much you earned over the years and when you decide to start drawing benefits. We’ll dive in here to give you the details of how these things work.

Inside this article

  1. What's Social Security?
  2. Calculating Social Security paym
  3. How about with cost-of-living adjustments? What changes?
  4. Examples

What's Social Security?

Social Security is a Depression-era program created in 1935 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. It began as a social insurance program to prevent poverty among the elderly. Over the years, it has expanded to offer survivors’ benefits, disability insurance and Medicare.

What Is Social Security?

What Is Social Security?

Social Security is a social insurance program intended to prevent poverty in old age, survivorship and disability.

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Calculating Social Security payments

Benefits are based on your lifetime earnings. If you worked more than 35 years, Social Security’s formula will use the 35 years in which you earned the most, adjusted for wage inflation.[1]

The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2022 is $1,668.

The amount depends on how old you are when you decide to start drawing payments. You can start drawing benefits as early as age 62, but your payment will be reduced.

If you wait until full retirement age, which is between 65 and 67, depending on your birth year, you will receive your full benefit.

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Social Security limits the benefit amount. In 2022, the maximum check is $3,345 for a person who waited until full retirement age to start collecting payments.

If you were entitled to the maximum amount but started drawing benefits at 62, though, you’d take a $1,000 haircut, and your monthly benefit would be just $2,364. [2]

Full retirement age depends on when you were born. For people born 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement is 66. For people born between 1955 to 1960, the full retirement age increases by increments of two months per year until age 67. You can check your situation in Social Security’s full retirement age chart. [3]

You can delay taking benefits until 70, but not later. [4,5]

Children and spouses of retirees and the families of deceased workers are also eligible for benefits under a complex set of calculations.

The average disability insurance benefit is $1,226.24 in 2022.[6]

How about with cost-of-living adjustments? What changes?

Everyone who gets Social Security gets an annual cost-of-living adjustment.[7]

Cost-of-living adjustments are announced once a year in October. The calculation is based on the year-over-year change in the average reading for July, August and September in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).

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Social Security recipients will see the adjustment in their January payment.

The COLA is currently 5.9%.[8]

Examples

Jim is a partner in a successful Honolulu law practice. He’s 62 and wants to retire so he can spend his time skiing in Alaska and sailing his boat. He’s eligible for the maximum 2022 monthly benefit of $3,345, but he’s five years from full retirement age, and his benefits would be reduced by 30%. Still, he figures that $2,341 a month will keep him in ski wax and sails.

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Jim’s wife, Sarah, is also a hotshot lawyer. Like Jim, she’s 62 and five years from full retirement age. She took some years off to raise the family, so she’s also eligible only for the average full retirement benefit of $1,668, less a 30% haircut for early retirement. Rather than take $1,168 now she decides to wait until 67 so she can draw the full benefit.

Jim’s big brother, Bob, dropped out of medical school to become a beach bum. He paid the bills by tending bar and playing with a rock band at a local club on Mondays. He’s 67 now and wants to start drawing retirement benefits. He didn’t earn nearly as much as his brother, so is only eligible for an average full retirement benefit of $1,668. Still, he knows he can keep working the bar, so the Social Security check will be gravy.

Sarah’s big sister, Joyce, is a pediatrician who is entitled to the maximum retirement benefit. She decides to wait until 70 to start collecting her checks, and now she’ll get 132% of her full retirement benefit, or $4,415.[9]

AgeFull Retirement Benefit (2022) Penalty for early retirement (or benefit for waiting to 70)Amount of benefit started at 62
Jim, 62$3,345-30%$2,508
Sarah, 62$1,667-30%$1,168
Bob, 67$1,6670%$1,621
Joyce, 70$3,345132%$4,415
Article Sources
  1. “Your Retirement Benefit: How It’s Figured.” Social Security Administration. January 2022. https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf
  2. “Monthly Statistical Snapshot, May 2022.” Social Security Administration. June 2022. https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/
  3. “Benefits Planner.” Social Security Administration. https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/agereduction.html
  4. “Your Retirement Benefit: How It Is Figured.” Social Security. January 2022. https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf
  5. When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits,” Social Security Administration, 2022. “When https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf
  6. “Monthly Statistical Snapshot, May 2022,” Social Security Administration, June 2022. https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/
  7. “Your Retirement Benefit: How It Is Figured,” Social Security, January 2022. https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf
  8. “Latest Cost-of-Living Adjustment,” Social Security Administration. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/latestCOLA.html#:~:text=A%20COLA%20effective%20for%20December,which%20a%20COLA%20became%20effective
  9. “Retirement Planner: How Delayed Retirement Affects Your Social Security Benefits,” Social Security Administration. https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/1943-delay.html
  10. “Monthly Statistical Snapshot, May 2022,” Social Security Administration, June 2022. https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/

About the Author

Laurel Kenner

Laurel Kenner

Laurel is a seasoned, award-winning journalist with over 20 years of experience. She is an accomplished financial commentator and co-author of Practical Speculation, a book on statistical analysis in investment. Laurel brings clarity and context to writing and is skilled at making complex issues easy to understand.

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