Question: When I retire, how much will I receive from Social Security?
 
Answer :
That depends upon how much you have earned and how long you have worked under the Social Security system. Your retirement benefit will be based on your average lifetime earnings. Don't worry if you started out as a busboy and worked your way up to executive restaurant guru--only your highest 35 years of earnings will count.

The amount you receive will also be affected by whether you start collecting benefits early (you'll get less), whether you collect benefits late (you'll get more), whether you work after you retire, whether other family members receive benefits based on your earnings record, whether you collect certain other government benefits, and whether the cost of living rises.

One way to get an estimate of how much you'll receive when you retire is to request a Social Security Statement from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Call (800) 772-1213 or visit its website at www.ssa.gov to request one.

Or, if you're age 25 or older, you can wait until you get your Social Security Statement in the mail, about three months before your birthday. Because you'll now automatically get it once a year, you can easily track your retirement benefit for the rest of your life. When you receive your statement, make sure it accurately reflects the number of years you have worked and contributed to Social Security. Another option is to use the SSA's Retirement Estimator, available online, to view a retirement estimate based on your earnings record.