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 are likely to be an important 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 never worked and did not pay Social Security taxes, you may be eligible for spouse’s retirement benefits. You must be at least 62 years old, and your spouse must already be receiving retirement or disability benefits.

Our online retirement portal at is a great place to start mapping out your retirement plan.  For example, have you considered:

  • What is the right time for you to start receiving your retirement benefits?
  • What documents you may need to provide SSA for your retirement application?
  • 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.

You may also be wondering about:

  • Benefits for a spouse or children.
  • How work affects your benefits.
  • If you will have to pay taxes on your benefits.

You can learn more at  Please share this information with family and friends to help them prepare for their 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