Which Party Is Right?

Mar 18 2017 - 6:30am


Getting 2 opposing views from social security regarding computation of retirement benefits.

One party states that the retirement amount (at 62 or 66) is calculated using an average of the HIGHEST SS wages for the last 35 years.

The other states use of average SS wages for the last 35 years prior to the actual retirement date.

Example: Spouse (age 61) wishes to wait until 66 to retire. She is currently paying SS tax on the maximum amount (118,000). She is wanting to take a lower paying job (25,000 to 50,000 annual) for the next five years.


One party states an average 35 of the highest wage years used to calculate (last five year wages therefore moot in the calculation)

One party states an average of wage years from retirement age (age 66) back 35 years. ( last five years do have impact as they reduce the average)

Who is right? By our calculations, depending on which method, this could mean up to an $800 a month difference at age 66.

Thank you in advance for your response.



Neither one is exactly right. Social Security retirement benefits are based on an average of the highest 35 years of wage-adjusted earnings (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf). There is no set time period from which the 35 years can be selected, and the 35 years used do not need to be consecutive.

Best, Jerry