Quick. At what age should you start collecting Social Security?
It’s not an easy question to answer, right?
Fortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently put out acalculator that helps you decide.
The tool allows you to explore how your claiming age impacts your retirement benefits. It also offers customized tips and provides next steps – somewhat of a guide for claiming Social Security.
Of course, when to claim Social Security is one of the biggest decisions many of us will make about retirement.
Indeed, claiming benefits is a one-time thing. Once you claim, there’s no turning back. That makes it crucial to carefully, and accurately, weigh your options.
“We want consumers to use our tool to know and understand what it means to claim at their full retirement age vs. several years before and several years after,” Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told USA Today.
Using the tool is very straightforward. Plug in your birthday and your highest annual work income and it gives you an estimated benefit for ages 62 through 72.
You can also answer questions about your martial status and financial particulars to get tips about when to claim.
Still, as a general rule, it pays to claim later and stay in the workforce longer.
For example, let’s say you were born on July 13, 1960 and your highest annual work income is $75,000.
If you start Social Security at the earliest possible moment, when you turn 62, the calculator says your benefit will be $1,536 a month.
By the time you turn 85, which the CFPB considers to be an average life span, you’ll have collected a total of nearly $433,000.
But put off collecting benefits until turning 67 and you become eligible for what’s considered a “full benefit.” The monthly payment climbs to $2,168 and you’ll receive a total of $468,000 by the time you turn 85.
Delay those checks until you’re 70 and the monthly income grows to $2,688, boosting the total payout to more than $483,000 by the time you reach 85.
The tool also allows you to calculate for cost of living adjustments. You can adjust for marriage status, additional income sources, life longevity and how long you plan to work.
This kind of information can be a huge help for anyone planning their retirement — and trying to figure out how much they need to save.
Most financial advisors recommend that you have ways to replace at least 70% of your pre-retirement income to maintain your standard of living after you stop working
This calculator provides a solid projection of how much of that can come from Social Security and how much will need to come from other sources – primarily savings and traditional pension plans.
In the case of our example, someone making $75,000 a year would need an annual retirement, or replacement income, as it’s often called, of $52,500.
If they receive the full Social Security benefit of $2,168 a month, then the government program will provide right at half of what he or she needs.
Let’s say the other half must come from personal savings, including defined-contribution retirement plans such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts.
We can use what’s called the 4% rule to determine how much must be saved to generate that income without having to worry about running out of money.
In the example of our $75,000 earner, he or she would need right at $580,000.
That’s a lot. But it’s half as much as our example would need if he or she didn’t have Social Security.
How do those numbers work out for you?