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Retirement Countdown: Take Action Now to Get the Life You Want by David Shapiro

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Appendix B. Social Security Income

The formula that the Social Security Administration uses to calculate your benefit is designed to give you credit for your 35 highest paying years. Here's how it works:

  1. Your lifetime earnings (to age 60) are adjusted for inflation.

  2. Your total earnings are divided by the number of months you worked to determine what is known as your average indexed monthly earnings.

  3. Your base benefit is based upon your average indexed earnings.

The chart below shows the maximum annual benefit at different retirement ages based upon current factors. This will help you to estimate your potential annual benefit. For example, the average annual individual benefit in 2003 was $899 while the maximum benefit was $1,348.

The normal retirement ...

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