As you're preparing for retirement, it's important to consider how Social Security will factor into your plans. The majority of retirees will rely on their benefits to some degree, with some seniors depending on them for most of their income.

It's wise, then, to make sure you're doing everything you can to maximize your monthly payments. The best time to start planning is well before you expect to retire, and there are a few important moves to make when you're in your 50s.

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1. Determine your full retirement age

Your full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which you'll receive the full benefit amount you're entitled to, based on your earnings throughout your career. If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is 67 years old. If your birth year falls before 1960, your FRA is either 66 or 66 and a certain number of months, depending on the exact year in which you were born.

Your FRA is an important figure because it will help determine how much you'll receive each month. Claim at your FRA, and you'll receive your full benefit amount. But you can also claim before or after your FRA, which will affect your payments.

2. Decide at what age to begin claiming

Once you know your FRA, it will be easier to decide at what age to begin claiming. The earliest you can file is age 62, but that will result in a reduced payment. These smaller checks will be permanent, too -- so your benefit amount won't increase once you reach your FRA.

You can also delay benefits past your FRA, which will earn you larger checks each month. In fact, if your FRA is 67 years old, you'll receive a 24% boost on top of your full benefit amount by waiting until age 70 to file. If you were to file at 62, your benefits would be reduced by up to 30%.

There's no right or wrong answer as to when you should claim because there are advantages to both claiming early and delaying benefits. But the sooner you decide when to claim, the easier it will be to plan for retirement.

3. Consider a strategy with your spouse

If you and your spouse are both entitled to Social Security benefits, it may be wise to come up with a strategy for when each of you will begin claiming.

You could file for benefits at the same time, for example, regardless of your ages. Or one of you could claim at 62 to start receiving benefits early in retirement, while the other delays until 70 to earn larger checks. If money is going to be tight in retirement, you could both delay benefits to squeeze as much as possible out of Social Security.

Again, there's no right or wrong answer here. However, your claiming strategy can significantly affect your retirement income, so it's a good idea to have a plan in place well before you retire.

Social Security benefits are an integral source of income for millions of seniors. By taking a few steps to plan in the years leading into retirement, you can ensure you're as prepared as possible.