Annual Statistical Supplement, 2010

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The Retirement Estimator gives estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record.

Appendix D: Computing a Retired-Worker Benefit

Overview

This section provides instructions and a worksheet for computing a retired-worker benefit for persons born in the years 1935 through 1948. The worksheet assumes that the worker had no prior period of entitlement to disability benefits and did not work after becoming entitled to retired-worker benefits.

The worksheet describes the various steps used in computing a benefit. The steps are based on the following Social Security program goals:

• To provide a benefit based on lifetime earnings. Benefits are related to the 35 highest earnings years (the number of computation years), but only for years after 1950. If there are fewer than 35 years with earnings, then years of no earnings are included among the 35 computation years.
• To index lifetime earnings. Earnings used in the computation are not the actual covered earnings but an amount that reflects earnings increases in average wage levels for each year after the earnings were paid. This procedure is termed wage indexing. Currently, earnings are generally indexed to wage levels in the year the worker turns age 60. For example, for a person attaining age 62 in 2010, actual earnings in 1985 of \$20,000 are indexed to \$49,142.45, on the basis of 2008 wage levels. Earnings after age 60 are included at their actual (nominal) value.
• To replace a portion of the indexed earnings. Indexed earnings are averaged over the number of computation years to calculate the average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). A benefit formula is applied to the AIME to produce the primary insurance amount (PIA), the amount payable to a worker who retires at the full retirement age (FRA). The benefit formula is weighted to provide a higher replacement of earnings for lower-wage workers. The formula for persons aged 62 in 2010 is 90 percent of the first \$761 of AIME; plus 32 percent of the next \$3,825; plus 15 percent of the AIME over \$4,586.
• To permit early retirement. Persons can retire as early as age 62, but the monthly benefit is reduced. The reduction is 5/9 of 1 percent for each of the first 36 months of entitlement immediately preceding the age at which 100 percent of PIA is payable (age 66 in 2010 but scheduled to increase to age 67 by 2022), plus 5/12 of 1 percent for each of up to 24 earlier months. For a person aged 62 in 2010, the maximum reduction is 25 percent if the individual is entitled to benefits for all 48 months between ages 62 and 66.
• To provide for price indexing after age 62. Benefits are adjusted annually in December to reflect increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W). The benefit increase in 2009 was 0.0 percent. These cost-of-living adjustments are applied to the benefit for each year after the person attained age 62—even if the person was not actually receiving benefits.
• To give credit for earnings after age 61. Earnings after age 61 (which are not indexed) can be substituted for earnings in earlier years if they result in a higher benefit.
• To give credit for late retirement. Persons who do not receive benefits between the FRA and age 69 may receive increased benefits as a result of the delayed retirement credit provision. The benefit is increased by a specified percentage for each month a benefit was deferred. See Table 2.A20 for percentage increases.

Clarifying the Worksheet Procedure

Step 1 - Determining the Number of Computation Years

For workers born in the years 1935 through 1948, the number of computation years is 35.

Step 2 - Wage Indexing of Earnings

The following description and examples are provided for persons who wish to compute the index factors and indexed earnings. The indexing year is the year a person attains age 60. Beneficiaries born on January 1 are deemed to have attained age 60 on December 31 of the prior year.

The average wage for the indexing year is divided by the average wage in each prior year to obtain the factor for each prior year. For example, for a person attaining age 62 in 2010, the indexing year is 2008. The average annual wage for 2008 was \$41,334.97. The average annual wage for 1990 was \$21,027.98. The amount \$41,334.97 divided by \$21,027.98 yields a factor of 1.9657128.

The worker's actual earnings covered under Social Security in that year, up to the maximum earnings creditable, are multiplied by the indexing factor to obtain the indexed earnings (see Worksheet 1). For example, actual covered earnings of \$10,000 in 1990, multiplied by 1.9657128, result in indexed earnings of \$19,657.13; actual earnings of \$51,300 (the maximum creditable) result in indexed earnings of \$100,841.07.

Step 3 - Computing the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME)

After the earnings in each year have been indexed, they are used in computing average indexed monthly earnings. The years of highest indexed earnings corresponding to the number of computation years are selected and totaled. This total is then divided by the number of months in the computation years. The result, rounded to the nearest lower dollar, is the average indexed monthly earnings.

For example, for a person attaining age 62 in 2010, the highest 35 years of indexed earnings are used. If the sum of these earnings equals \$400,000, the AIME is \$952 (\$400,000 divided by 420 months = \$952.38, rounded to \$952).

Step 4 - Computing the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)

The PIA, the amount from which all Social Security benefits payable on a worker's earnings record are based, is computed by applying a formula to the AIME. The formula consists of brackets in which three percentages are applied to amounts of AIME. The dollar amounts defining the brackets are called bend points, and the bend points are different for each calendar year of attainment of age 62. The PIA is rounded to the nearest lower 10 cents.

For retired workers who attained age 62 in 2010, the bend points are \$761 and \$4,586. Thus the formula is 90 percent of the first \$761 of AIME; plus 32 percent of the next \$3,825 of AIME; plus 15 percent of AIME above \$4,586. The following are examples of PIA computations for such workers with different AIME amounts.

Example 1 - AIME of \$700
PIA is \$630
Based on: 90 percent of \$700

Example 2 - AIME of \$1,500
PIA is \$921.38 rounded to \$921.30
Based on: 90 percent of \$761 (\$684.90); plus
32 percent of \$739 (\$236.48)

Example 3 - AIME of \$5,000
PIA is \$1,971.00
Based on: 90 percent of \$761 (\$684.90); plus
32 percent of \$3,825 (\$1,224.00); plus
15 percent of \$414 (\$62.10)

The above calculations are applicable to workers who attain age 62 in 2010. For workers who attained age 62 in prior years, the bend points will be different, and the PIA must be increased to reflect cost-of-living adjustments between the year of attainment of age 62 and 2010. Worksheet 2 shows cost-of-living increase factors for 1979 through 2009. After the PIA is calculated for the year of attainment of age 62, cost-of-living increases are applied for each year through 2009. The result is the current 2010 PIA.

For example, a worker who attained age 62 in 2007 would receive cost-of-living adjustments for the years 2007–2009. The adjustments are cumulative, with each step rounded to the next lower dime. If the PIA at age 62 was \$700, the cost-of-living adjustments would be:

2007: \$700 multiplied by 1.023 = \$716.10
2008: \$716.10 multiplied by 1.058 = \$757.60
2009: \$757.60 multiplied by 1.000 = \$757.60
\$757.60 would be the PIA effective December 2009.

Step 5 - Computation of the Monthly Benefit

The full PIA is payable to a worker who retires at the full retirement age (FRA). In 2000, incremental increases in the FRA—from age 65 for workers born 1937 and earlier to age 67 for workers born 1960 and later—began to be phased in.

Early retirement reduces benefits:

Workers can still retire as early as age 62, but the monthly benefit is reduced by 5/9 of 1 percent for each of the first 36 months of entitlement immediately preceding the FRA. If the number of months preceding FRA exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of 1 percent for each of up to 24 earlier months. Workers attaining age 62 in 2010 have their benefits computed based on the FRA of 66. See Table 2.A17.1 to determine the FRA based on the year of birth as well as the reduction factors. For individuals electing benefits at exactly age 62 in 2010, the maximum reduction is 25 percent.

For example, in 2010 a worker with a PIA of \$700 would receive \$525 at age 62. The PIA is reduced by \$175.00, reflecting a reduction rate of 5/9 of 1 percent for each of the first 36 months and a reduction rate of 5/12 of 1 percent for each of the additional 12 months for a total reduction of 25 percent. After reduction of the PIA by \$175.00, the benefit amount is rounded down to the nearest lower dollar.

Delayed retirement increases benefits:

Delayed retirement increases the benefit amount (by a certain percentage depending on a person's date of birth) if the worker delays retirement beyond FRA. Benefit increases stop accumulating when the worker reaches age 70, even if he or she continues to delay taking benefits. Delayed retirement increases begin to apply to benefits in January of the year following the year the worker reaches FRA. The credit given for delayed retirement will gradually reach 8 percent per year (16/24 of 1 percent monthly) for those born 1943 and later. See Table 2.A20 for percentage increases.

For example, a worker born June 1944 will reach FRA in June 2010. If the worker delays receiving benefits until November 2010 (5 months after FRA), his or her benefit will be 103.33% of the PIA. If the worker's PIA is \$700, his or her benefit would increase to \$723.31 rounded to \$723.30.

Worksheet 1: Indexing of earnings
Year Your
earnings
Maximum
taxable
earnings
(dollars)
Lower of
columns
2 or 3
Indexing
factor
Column 4
times
column 5
Highest
indexed
earnings
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1951   3,600
1952   3,600
1953   3,600
1954   3,600
1955   4,200
1956   4,200
1957   4,200
1958   4,200
1959   4,800
1960   4,800
1961   4,800
1962   4,800
1963   4,800
1964   4,800
1965   4,800
1966   6,600
1967   6,600
1968   7,800
1969   7,800
1970   7,800
1971   7,800
1972   9,000
1973   10,800
1974   13,200
1975   14,100
1976   15,300
1977   16,500
1978   17,700
1979   22,900
1980   25,900
1981   29,700
1982   32,400
1983   35,700
1984   37,800
1985   39,600
1986   42,000
1987   43,800
1988   45,000
1989   48,000
1990   51,300
1991   53,400
1992   55,500
1993   57,600
1994   60,600
1995   61,200
1996   62,700
1997   65,400
1998   68,400
1999   72,600
2000   76,200
2001   80,400
2002   84,900
2003   87,000
2004   87,900
2005   90,000
2006   94,200
2007   97,500
2008   102,000
2009   106,800
Worksheet 2: Computing the primary insurance amount (PIA) for workers retiring after age 62
Year 1st bend point
(dollars)
2nd bend point
(dollars)
Cost-of-living
increase
(percent)
Cost-of-living
factor
Years
aged 62
or older
PIA
(dollars)
1 2 3 4 5 6
Age 62 PIA:
1979 180 1,085 9.9 1.099
1980 194 1,171 14.3 1.143
1981 211 1,274 11.2 1.112
1982 230 1,388 7.4 1.074
1983 254 1,528 3.5 1.035
1984 267 1,612 3.5 1.035
1985 280 1,691 3.1 1.031
1986 297 1,790 1.3 1.013
1987 310 1,866 4.2 1.042
1988 319 1,922 4.0 1.040
1989 339 2,044 4.7 1.047
1990 356 2,145 5.4 1.054
1991 370 2,230 3.7 1.037
1992 387 2,333 3.0 1.030
1993 401 2,420 2.6 1.026
1994 422 2,545 2.8 1.028
1995 426 2,567 2.6 1.026
1996 437 2,635 2.9 1.029
1997 455 2,741 2.1 1.021
1998 477 2,875 1.3 1.013
1999 505 3,043 2.5 a 1.025
2000 531 3,202 3.5 1.035
2001 561 3,381 2.6 1.026
2002 592 3,567 1.4 1.014
2003 606 3,653 2.1 1.021
2004 612 3,689 2.7 1.027
2005 627 3,779 4.1 1.041
2006 656 3,955 3.3 1.033
2007 680 4,100 2.3 1.023
2008 711 4,288 5.8 1.058
2009 744 4,483 0.0 1.000
2010 761 4,586 . . . . . .
NOTE: . . . = not applicable.
a. The December 1999 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was originally determined to be 2.4 percent, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The underlying CPI was later recomputed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; a 2.5 percent COLA would have been consistent with the recomputed CPI. Pursuant to Public Law 106-554, benefits were calculated and paid in August 2001 and later as if the December 1999 COLA had been 2.5 percent. Affected beneficiaries received a one-time payment to cover the shortfall that occurred before August 2001.

CONTACT: Alberta Presberry (410) 966-8473 or supplement@ssa.gov.