Social Security Unveils a New Online Calculator

Near-retirees can more accurately predict future benefit amounts.

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It's difficult to plan for retirement when you can't predict the precise amount of your Social Security checks. A new tool is available to more accurately estimate what your Social Security benefits will be.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue unveiled a new online calculator yesterday. The Retirement Estimator allows you to test out retirement options such as various retirement dates or expected future earnings. You can also calculate what your benefit will be if you begin collecting at age 62, wait until your full retirement age, or further delay claiming until age 70. The future benefit amount is adjusted for inflation.

The online Social Security benefit estimates are tied to your actual earning record, so you have to enter a little bit of personal information. But the calculator replaces an older online calculator that required the user to type in a large portion of their earnings history, which was time consuming and difficult to do if accurate records of income were not kept. The new tool also one-ups the annual paper Social Security benefit estimate you receive in the mail, which is also based on your prior earnings but assumes that your salary stays the same until retirement. Benefit estimates will be more accurate for people closer to retirement age who can better predict their future earnings.

The new calculator follows a redesign of the Social Security Web page. In the fall, a new online Social Security application that will reduce the average filing time from 45 minutes to about 15 minutes will become available, Astrue says. "These initiatives will help us better handle the baby boomer wave and make it easier for the public to do business with us online."