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The Best Social Security Calculator There Is

You shouldn't be guessing whether you'll be able to retire with enough income to get by. So let me show you how you can quickly estimate how much Social Security money you're going to get each month when you finally decide to trade in your business suit for khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.

These calculators are your friend

I recently chatted with Jean Setzfand, the vice president of financial security at AARP and one of the top Social Security experts out there. As you'll see in the video below, she says the calculators on both the AARP website and the official Social Security site are top-notch, and she gives the nod to the latter because it can actually pull your entire earnings history to better estimate your benefits.

I tried out both calculators. Here's a quick summary of each.

1. The Social Security Administration website indeed has the best calculator out there, because it can give you the most accurate picture of your monthly Social Security income when you retire. Once you've signed in, the calculator automatically pulls your earnings history -- and believe me, it's extremely interesting to see your entire life's earnings summarized year by year.

The calculator then shows your estimated Social Security monthly payments, assuming you choose one of three different ages to begin taking benefits:

  • Full retirement age -- between 65 and 67, depending on your date of birth
  • Age 70 -- the latest age you can begin taking benefits
  • Early retirement age -- age 62, the earliest age you can begin taking benefits

You can also view and print out your official, full statement from the Social Security Administration.

The biggest barrier to getting this info is simply creating your account; the SSA needs to know you are really you, after all. But it will only take you about five minutes, so just do it already.

2. The AARP Social Security website is also great because it includes some extra features. Once you input your information, you'll see an extremely easy-to-read bar graph showing your estimated monthly payouts for each year you could begin taking benefits, from age 62 to 70. You'll also be presented with neatly summarized boxes explaining how to maximize your monthly benefits, depending on your marital status. The calculator also helps you estimate your living expenses in retirement to see just how much (or how little) Social Security will cover.

Spending just a little time on each of these two websites is a real eye-opener. I recommend sitting down tonight with your spouse, significant other, or pet goldfish and giving both calculators a try. Doing so may very well change how -- and how much -- you save, beginning tomorrow.

AARP's Jean Setzfand on calculators and the best age to retire

How to get even more income during retirement
Social Security plays a key role in your financial security, but it's not the only way to boost your retirement income. In our brand-new free report, our retirement experts give their insight on a simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule that can help ensure a more comfortable retirement for you and your family. Click here to get your copy today.


Read/Post Comments (8) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2014, at 8:04 AM, maywife wrote:

    Ah! if only I could use the SS calculator, but once you start benefits under a spouse's # the system will not let you model your own information. Even the service people at an SS office are unable to access or model for you UNLESS you apply to switch your benefits!

    So I don't want to switch unless I know how much and I can't find out how much until I switch.

    Time to write your congressman.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2014, at 8:44 AM, jhb045 wrote:

    I'm 65 and currently on my deceased husband's benefits but want to start getting my own at age 70. I went to the local SS office and they were able to give me a printout with the info as to how much I''ll be able to get. Did you go to the office in person or just try to call?

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2014, at 8:49 AM, SailorKane wrote:

    I purchased the "maximize your social security benefits" calculator, web-based, for $40/year. I was very disappointed. I had to enter my entire earnings history and my wifes. Then it apparently ran through 747 different scenarios of retirement and picked the optimum. I then entered my own desires, based on my spreadsheet calculations, and it beat their best, by their own numbers. And it is very limited in options for the last 2 years before full retirement age which is exactly when you need the best guidance (it doesn't have the proper monthly or earnings-based "giveback" calculations). An email to them and they admitted the programs limitations. I sent my output to them, but they have been silent.

    So my recommendation is to stick to these two free calculations. Run your own scenarios. Learn the rules. And enjoy your retirement!!!!

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2014, at 8:52 AM, SailorKane wrote:

    By the way, I had a hard time finding the rules regarding spousal benefits in the SS literature, so I sent a question to SS via email. It took a while for them to answer, but they responded with an excellent, comprehensive, focused answer to my question. Don't forget this source of information.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2014, at 8:58 AM, philmyworld wrote:

    Social security calculators will often assume that you will continue to work until your retirement age and continue to make salaries similar to your latest employment year. As it takes the highest 35 years of salary including the ones you've yet to work, it may give you a high estimate if you retire early. If you retire at 60 and subsequently collect social security between 62-67, it can have a significant impact on the monthly payout. In my case, it was a couple hundred of dollars a month.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2014, at 9:16 AM, herky46q wrote:

    I think it should read that 70 is the latest age you can begin to take benefits without any further increase in the payout.

  • Report this Comment On August 19, 2014, at 10:23 AM, TonyBologna65 wrote:

    If I'm correct it's 66 yrs. and 6 months plus a day or 184 days you need to reach for your best and soonest payout by SS with the most you can receive till 70. The need for the best and the most earliest payout out weighs the need to wait till your 70. It also increases your income sooner for investing if needs be. You will receive increase for living expense each year following your retirement providing the so called government allows you this increase. Please do your DD before relying on any one persons perspective.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2014, at 11:18 PM, 2thfool wrote:

    It's an error to assume you will gain 8%/ year by delaying social security. The 8% is before taxes. Chances are, if you have other savings (like traditional IRAs, pensions, etc) and if you are married with both drawing social security, you will likely exceed the measly income limit for tax-free benefits. Therefore, the extra "8%" will be taxable at your ordinary rate, so it will be more like 6%. It may also push your Medicare fees up, too. Not much, but not 8%/year, either. If you follow actuarial tables you may find it may be a factor in deciding to collect before age 70. Run your own numbers, of course, but run them with taxes in mind.

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Rex Moore

Rex Moore spent his formative years in Texas, and fought beside Davy Crockett at the Alamo. He currently travels the globe for TMF, bringing back video reports on conferences and companies that matter for investors.

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