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When to Tap Social Security: The Sometimes Surprising Answer From Online Calculators

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When to Tap Social Security: The Sometimes Surprising Answer From Online Calculators

One of the most complicated and consequential decisions in retirement—when to start collecting Social Security—has been transformed by online calculators.

The conventional wisdom says that you should wait to claim benefits as long as possible, to maximize your payments. But one size doesn’t fit all, and people’s circumstances are often different than the standard assumptions about expected lifespan and career plans.

That’s where these calculators are useful. Put in your age and your spouse’s age, as well as information from your Social Security statement, and the calculators will tell you when you should each begin benefits to get the most money over your lifetimes.

And, most important, you can easily adjust the numbers based on your individual situation and see what you stand to gain or lose. If you think there’s information that the formulas aren’t taking into account, plug in a different number. For instance, you know if people in your families are short-lived or long-lived—but the algorithms don’t. The difference between what you get and what the calculator gives you originally can be striking.

There are a number of calculators to choose from. Some are free, such as Open Social Security, and some charge a fee, like Social Security Solutions or Maximize My Social Security.

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