Counting every penny is a must for successful retirement planning but what if you don’t know how many pennies to expect from your Social Security? Find out how to make that money count, too, in our review of the Maximize My Social Security software.
With all the free government resources out there for Social Security, you might balk at paying for an additional software to help you make decisions related to these retirement benefits. But it seems that every time tax laws change, Social Security gets more complicated. And it can be difficult to figure out when is the best time to take your Social Security benefits.
This is so important, though. Social Security benefits are calculated based on a combination of your age and your lifetime earnings. (Well, a portion of them. For a more detailed explanation of how benefits are calculated, check out this article.)
If you wait longer, you could get a significantly higher payout. But if you wait too long, you might actually leave money on the table.
So, yes, you can figure out your current benefit calculations and run some numbers on free calculators from the Social Security Administration. But if you want to be sure you’re making the right choice about when to take your benefits, you might check out Maximize My Social Security, a more robust tool.
About Maximize My Social Security
This program was developed by Social Security guru Laurence Kotlikoff. He is a professor of economics at Boston University and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc. The program accounts for all the types of Social Security benefits, including spousal benefits and even childhood disability benefits. And it also folds in all the major rules involved.
Essentially, the software lets you put your earnings history into the system, and then it helps you run scenarios to figure out the best time to start drawing on your Social Security. It offers analyses of multiple “what-if” scenarios, so that you can see which strategy will work best for your needs.
How It Works
Essentially with Maximize My Social Security, you put in your basic information. When I say basic, I really mean your entire financial history. It’s quite a haul to get all the information in. Buch you can get most of it from My Social Security, which keeps records of your earnings history. That’s the most difficult piece of information to come up with, typically. But you’ll also put in other information, including:
- Your current marital status
- Your birthday and your spouse’s birthday (if applicable)
- Former marital status if you’re single
- Information about your former spouse (if applicable)
- Earnings information and potential future earnings
- Information about your children (if applicable)
- And more
Then, the system puts all this information together to allow you to run multiple scenarios. You can figure out how long you should delay your retirement to maximize your benefits. You can look at when you and your spouse should each take benefits for the best outcome. It will even run through “file and suspend” strategies that couples might use and what could happen if you start retirement, stop it to begin working again, and then retire yet again.
The system gives you the best possible financial outcome as far as hard dollars go. For instance, the sample below shows an increased benefit of $162,985 over a lifetime if you use the maximized benefits strategy.
Then the report details the actual strategy it recommends to get this maximum amount of Social Security income.
But it doesn’t just leave you there. Maximize My Social Security also shows you the other potential scenarios that it ran through. This can help you plan for the best choice for your particular needs and quality of life overall. It may be worth it to you to leave some money on the table for an extra year or two of retirement. Or you might consider a partial retirement while putting off your benefits.
Pros and Cons
Like any piece of financial software, algorithm, and advice, Maximize My Social Security has its pros and cons. Here are some to consider:
- It’s comprehensive. The software is kept up-to-date whenever Social Security laws and rules change. This means you can rely on the outputs to be accurate, as much as is possible.
- It gives you lots of options. Rather than giving you just the best case scenario as some software or financial advisors will, this one gives you all the options. This can be helpful, again, in figuring out which choice is the best overall–not based solely on the net dollar amount. Plus, it can run potential scenarios you may not even know exist.
- It incorporates spousal information. The information you can get for free from the Social Security Administration is helpful. But you have to run a lot of the scenarios based only on your information. If you’re married, this can be a pain.
- It also looks at children. If you have children who qualify for Social Security benefits based on disability, this is also important. This software incorporates this type of information. Your choices are even more complex than normal, and seeing your options on paper can be really helpful.
- It’s user-friendly. The information that the system puts out is easy to use. But it’s also easy to put your information into the system. You can save information as you go along, since you might need to do the data input over the course of a few sessions. But it features user-friendly interfaces like a table to put your earnings in.
- It requires a lot of data. If you want to run every possible scenario, this is the software for you. But if your choices are more straightforward, it might be more overwhelming than you need–especially from a data entry perspective. It takes a lot of time to put that data in, so don’t do it if it won’t be of real benefit to you.
- It’s not a crystal ball. As with many future-looking financial calculations, this one is based on assumptions. For instance, it looks at the benefits of working longer based on today’s Social Security rules. But if you’re still twenty years from retirement, the numbers may be pretty far off the mark.
- It’s pricey. With a lot of free calculators available online, you might balk at paying $40 per year for Maximize My Social Security. However, it could prove worth it if you’re in the right situation.
Who is It For?
Keeping in mind that people further from retirement are likely to have more variable outcomes, Maximize My Social Security is best for those who are on the cusp of making retirement decisions. If you’re more than a decade from retirement, you should probably wait to purchase this software down the road. Get a few more years’ earnings in and let the rules change before you run your numbers.
However, if you’re closing in on retirement age and aren’t sure what your best option is, $40 a year may be chump change compared to what Maximize My Social Security could save you. The wrong decision now could mean literally tens of thousands of dollars down the drain. So if you don’t mind some data entry time, sit down and run your numbers through this system. Then, keep it up to date as you near retirement so that you can ensure you’re making the right decision for your situation.