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Preparing for Retirement

With retirement around the corner now is the time to plan for your financial needs

Your Social Security benefits are the foundation on which you can build a secure retirement.

The three major elements of your retirement portfolio are:

  • Benefits from pensions,

  • Savings and investments, and

  • Social Security benefits.

Most financial advisors say you'll need about 70% of your pre-retirement earnings to comfortably maintain your pre-retirement standard of living. If you have average earnings, your Social Security retirement benefits will replace only about 40%. The percentage is lower for people in the upper income brackets and higher for people with low incomes. You'll need to supplement your benefits with a pension, savings or investments.

To help you plan for retirement, the Social Security website includes a Retirement Estimator that lets you get a retirement benefit estimate based on current law and real time access to your earnings record. It also provide a Benefits Planner to help in the event of disability or loss of your family's wage earner.

Factors that may affect your retirement benefits

Your benefit amount is based on your earnings averaged over most of your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If you have some years of no earnings or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.

Your benefit amount also is affected by your age at the time you start receiving benefits. If you start your retirement benefits at age 62 (the earliest possible retirement age) your benefit will be lower than if you wait until your full retirement age. If you start your retirement benefits after full retirement age, the monthly benefit may be higher due to delayed retirement credits.

If you are self-employed

Self-employed people must report their earnings and pay the taxes directly to the IRS. You are self-employed if you operate a trade, business or profession, either by yourself or as a partner.

You report your earnings for Social Security when you file your federal income tax return. If your net earnings are $400 or more in a year, you must report your earnings on IRS Schedule SE for Social Security purposes, in addition to the other tax forms you must file.

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