Social Security

Boston College Center For Retirement Research Social Security Claiming Guide  This free 28-page guide can help you sort through and evaluate your options for claiming Social Security benefits and answers common questions people have about how Social Security works.

Retirement Estimator The Social Security Administration’s Retirement Estimator will project your Social Security benefits using your actual earnings record (plus a projection of future earnings if necessary). Using this tool, you can get a sense of how much your Social Security check might increase by postponing retirement. If you just want a quick estimate of your benefit, you can try Social Security’s Quick Calculator.

Financial Engines Social Security Calculator Plug in your name, age, current income and the age at which you expect to begin collecting Social Security. The tool will estimate the amount you’ll collect in today’s dollars over your lifetime, tell the age at which you should claim benefits to increase your lifetime payments and estimate how much more you’ll collect. If you’re married, the tool will recommend a claiming strategy to maximize lifetime benefits for you and your spouse. You can also get different projections based on whether you estimate your life expectancy will exceed or fall short of average.

Social Security Benefits Evaluator Whether you’re single or married, this calculator can help you decide when it pays to start taking Social Security benefits, depending on such goals as getting as much money as soon as possible, assuring the largest benefit for a surviving spouse or maximizing lifetime benefits.

2015 Social Security Trustees Report Officially titled The 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, this report details the financial status of the Social Security trust funds and projects the funds’ balances for the next 75 years. The 2015 report estimates that Social Security’s main trust fund will run out of money in 2034 (an improvement of one year from the 2014 report), at which point payroll taxes will be able to fund 79% of projected benefits.

Social Security Fix-It Book This easy-to-read guide from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research explains how the Social Security system works, offers an assessment of its financial health and outlines a number of fixes that have been proposed to deal with the system’s looming funding shortfall.

Social Security Full Retirement Age You can consult this section of the Social Security website to determine your “full retirement age” (aka “normal retirement age”)—that is, the age at which you are eligible to collect full Social Security benefits. This page also explains how much of your full benefit you’ll lose if you claim benefits early. The Delayed Retirement Credits page shows how much you can increase your benefit by postponing benefits until after you’ve reached full retirement age.

How Work Affects Your Benefit This guide from Social Security explains how your benefit is calculated from your lifetime earnings, outlines the “earnings test” that determines whether your benefit may be reduced if work and collect benefits while under full retirement age and illustrates how benefits reduced due to work earnings are restored when you reach full retirement age.

Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefit Up to 85% of your Social Security benefit could be taxable depending on how much (and what kind of income) you have in addition to your Social Security benefit. This section of the Social Security site explains the formula that’s used to determine if your benefits are subject to income taxes and, if so, what portion.