Your Social Security retirement payout is calculated using your lifetime earnings from jobs where you paid Social Security taxes. Higher-income equates to a larger benefit.  Other factors like the age at which you claim benefits impact the amount you are entitled to receive.

Although you won’t know the exact amount you will receive until you apply, there are ways to estimate it ahead of time. Using the AARP’s Social Security Benefits Calculator or your online My Social Security account are the quickest and easiest ways to figure out your benefits. The latter is based on your Social Security earnings record and the AARP calculation requires your average annual income.

Both programs estimate how much money you may get each month if you started Social Security at age 62, the earliest age you can file; at full retirement age, which is presently 66 and 2 months and progressively rises to 67; and at age 70. If you file early between the ages of 62 and 70, you receive a lower Social Security payout; if you wait until the age of 70, it raises your payout.

You can call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 for basic benefit estimates. But keep in mind that the figures are estimates and not guarantees, no matter where you get them. Your actual benefit will vary, perhaps substantially, depending on your earnings, cost-of-living adjustments, whether you continue to work after filing for benefits, and changes in the Social Security law.

The amount of your earnings that Social Security considers when calculating your payment is limited. The limit for 2021 is $142,800 (annually modified to match historical pay patterns). Any additional earnings are not taken into account when calculating your benefits (and are also not subject to Social Security taxes).