If you're planning to rely on Social Security to any degree during retirement, it's important that you start thinking about your benefits way ahead of that milestone. Here are four moves it pays to make 10 years before you think you'll leave the workforce for good.

1. Get an estimate of your monthly benefit

Knowing how much Social Security income you have to look forward to will help you make important retirement decisions. The good news is that getting an estimate of your benefits is easy. Just create an account on the Social Security Administration's website and access your annual earnings statement there (it will start coming in the mail once you turn 60). Each year, you'll see what your monthly benefit at full retirement age will look like.

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Of course, the closer you get to retirement, the more accurate this estimate will be. Also, there are other factors that could raise or lower your estimated benefit, like filing for Social Security early or late. But either way, getting that number 10 years prior to retirement will at least give you a starting point to work with.

2. Know your full retirement age

Your full retirement age is when you're eligible to collect your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your personal earnings history. You can consult this table to see what your full retirement age is:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age




66 and 2 months


66 and 4 months


66 and 6 months


66 and 8 months


66 and 10 months

1960 or later


Data source: Social Security Administration.

Keep in mind that you're allowed to claim Social Security well before full retirement age -- as early as age 62. But knowing that age can help you decide when to retire.

3. Figure out where you want to retire

There are a number of states that tax Social Security benefits to varying degrees. The list includes:

  1. Colorado
  2. Connecticut
  3. Kansas
  4. Minnesota
  5. Missouri
  6. Montana
  7. Nebraska
  8. New Mexico
  9. North Dakota
  10. Rhode Island
  11. Utah
  12. Vermont
  13. West Virginia

If you're thinking of retiring in any of these states, you'll need to consider how that will impact your Social Security income. Of course, depending on your total retirement income, your benefits may be taxed at the federal level, too. But avoiding the above states could help you keep more of your benefits.

4. Come up with a plan to live on a reduced Social Security benefit

Unfortunately, Social Security is facing its share of financial troubles, and if lawmakers don't manage to address them, benefit cuts will be on the table. That's why it's important to establish a plan to compensate for a lower benefit than what your earnings statements estimate.

That plan could include ramping up your savings rate and putting more money into your IRA or 401(k), or it could mean aiming to work during retirement to generate more income. While Social Security cuts are not set in stone, it's important to gear up for them, nonetheless.

Social Security will probably play an important role in your retirement, so make these moves well before you're ready to leave the workforce for good. You'll be thankful for that advanced planning later on.