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Greetings, Tom, and welcome to Fooldom.

<<My parents are 53. They both work, but do not have a huge amount of savings. As the most money-savvy child, I think it will be my responsibility to take care of them in the future. My dad has a small IRA, and my mom has a small 401K. I know I'll need to talk to them, see how much they'll need in retirement, see how much they have, and so on. I think I'll need to see if they can save more.

However, to start, I'm curious as to how much they can get from Social Security. I'm under the impression that there's a set amount that you need to contribute over your lifetime. Then, your payments depend on whether you start receiving the benefit at 62, or 65, or whatever. Is that right?

My dad has worked for over 30 years. Most of that time, he's been self-employed, so he's paid the 15.3% S-E tax. That should definitely cover him, right? My mom has worked for maybe 10 years (non-consecutively), some part time and some full time. She probably hasn't paid the full amount. Are things taken jointly?

Is there some government web page that has this information?>>

Both your mom and your dad have worked sufficient quarters to be covered under Social Security on their own work records starting at age 62. At that age, though, it's only about 80% of what they would get if they waited until age 65 or later. And your mom will get more most probably if she draws on your father's record, which she is entitled to do. At age 65, that's half of what your dad would draw.

The best way to examine these issues is to go to the Social Security Administration website at That site discusses a whole host of issues and even lets them request a Personal Earnings Benefits Estimate on line. The latter will show them an estimate of what they would get if they retired at age 62, 65 or 70 based on their work history and what they say they'll earn this year and next. Those statements will go a long way to answering the money question.

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