Q. Is there a way to figure Social Security benefits if one doesn’t work until “normal” retirement age? My wife and I have records of all our contributions, but given our desire to quit our main jobs at 55 – and earn a fraction of our current earnings after age 55 – I have found no good way to calculate our potential benefit at either 62 or 65.


A. The Social Security Administration has an on-line benefit calculator. Go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.htm.  Enter your anticipated future earnings and the calculator will provide a new benefit estimate.

One aspect of Social Security law you may want to consider is that Social Security Disability Insurance is somewhat like term insurance. A wage earner is insured for disability benefits while actively working and for up to five years after ceasing work. Specifically, a wage earner must have Social Security work credits in 20 out of the 40 calendar quarters ending when disability begins. Since you and your wife are considering leaving the work force well before retirement age, you should know that you could maintain disability coverage with minimal earnings. For example, in 2013, four quarters of Social Security credits can be earned if annual earnings are at least $4,640.