Four Questions About Social Security That Can Help You Plan Your Retirement

By Vonda Van Til, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Social Security benefits are part of the retirement plan of almost every American worker.  If you’re among the many people covered under Social Security, you should know what your future benefit may be. These monthly payments may be a vital part of your retirement income.

We base your benefit payment on how much you earned during your working career.  Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years you didn’t work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.  Even if you have never worked under Social Security, you may be able to get spouse’s/ divorced spouse’s benefits.

Our online retirement portal at is a great place to start mapping out your retirement plan.  There, we provide important information that you should know.  For example, have you considered: 

  • When you should apply to start retirement benefits?
  • What documents you need to provide?
  • Which factors may affect your retirement benefits?
  • What you should remember to do after you apply for retirement benefits?

You can use your personal my Social Security account at to get an instant estimate of your future retirement benefits.  You can also see the effects of starting your retirement benefits at different ages. 

Benefits for family members may also be important to you.  When you start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record.  You can learn more at  Please share this information with family and friends to help them prepare for retirement. 

Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at