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The 3 Best Social Security Calculators For 2016

Author: Christopher Taylor

Choosing the best time to claim Social Security benefits is a key decision everyone has to make as they approach retirement age. It can also be a very complicated decision for many people. While reduced Social Security benefits are available at age 62, you stand to make substantial gains if you can delay taking your benefits until you reach full retirement age, which is between 65 and 67, depending on your birth date. Further gains are available if you can wait until the maximum age of 70 to start taking benefits. On the other hand, there are circumstances in which it may make sense to take your benefits early, even if it is possible to delay them. Other considerations that complicate things further include the availability of spousal or survivor benefits.

Social Security calculators help you understand how various factors influence the size of your monthly benefit and how much you stand to gain over the course of your retirement. They also help you test different claiming strategies to find a plan that works best for you. Although the following Social Security calculators are updated to account for changes in federal law, it is important to consult with a financial advisor or another expert to double-check your results before changing your retirement plans based on calculator recommendations.

1. Social Security Administration Calculators

The U.S. Social Security Administration maintains a selection of more than 10 calculators on its website, all designed to help you analyze every aspect of your Social Security benefits. The Retirement Estimator allows you to calculate and analyze your benefits based on your official Social Security record. You must verify your identity to gain secure access to this calculator. If you have a scenario involving disability or survivor benefits, opt for the Detailed Calculator. This calculator is a downloadable program designed for installation on your Windows or Mac computer.

For fast analysis, use the Quick Calculator to get an estimate of benefits based on earning information you provide yourself. The Benefits for Spouses Calculator helps you understand how a retirement decision made by one spouse affects the other. Access the Life Expectancy Calculator to estimate how long you might live for planning purposes. Other calculators are available for various special-case scenarios.

2. AARP Social Security Benefits Calculator

AARP, a membership organization for people 50 and over, hosts an easy-to-use calculator built to help you decide when to claim your Social Security benefits. After you enter some basic information including your birth date and average annual salary, the calculator returns a simple bar graph showing your estimated monthly benefit at each possible initial-claim age from 62 to 70. The visual representation this calculator provides really hammers home what you stand to gain by delaying benefits. The next stage of the calculator helps you analyze the effects of claiming benefits at different ages while continuing to work at different pay rates. The main inadequacy of this calculator is its reliance on an estimated average salary rather than a closer accounting of actual and expected earnings.

3. Bedrock Capital Management SSAnalyze

Bedrock Capital Management, a wealth planning firm, maintains a calculator that covers scenarios for both single earners and couples. SSAnalyze incorporates a variety of adjustable variables, including one for inflation to help you estimate the effects of a cost of living adjustment on your benefits. The calculator also accounts for certain government pensions that can influence Social Security benefits, an important but rare capability among online benefits calculators. To enhance the accuracy of this tool, use your current estimated benefit amount provided in your annual Social Security statement. Once you run this calculator with initial values, it is easy to adjust retirement age and other variables to model different retirement scenarios.

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