Don't Claim Without Trying a Social Security Calculator First

A good Social Security calculator can help you get more lifetime benefits by showing you customized claiming strategies that you may not be aware of without the use of software. 

There are both free calculators and calculators that charge a modest fee. Nowadays, there are so many Social Security calculators that it's hard to cover them all. 

The calculators below are different from what is available on the Social Security website. Social's online calculators don't analyze a variety of options or show you what claiming choices give you more money, but the calculators below do.

AARP's Social Security Benefits Calculator

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AARP offers a free easy-to-use calculator that provides great information on how earnings from work can reduce your benefits if you claim before you reach full retirement age. It also provides a recommended claiming strategy in a summary format, but you have no way to dig in and see the data tables supporting the answer.

Some don't find this calculator very useful in developing a good action plan, but it's listed it here because it's so visible. You can choose a for-fee calculator below if you're serious about making your benefit choices work for you. But this calculator is free, so you pay for what you get.

Maximize My Social Security

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Maximize My Social Security, developed by Boston economics professor Larry Kotlikoff, covers all the Social Security claiming scenarios one might encounter: retiree, spousal, survivor, divorcee, parent, and child benefits. It also does calculations for the windfall elimination provision and government pension offset (which will affect you if you receive a pension from an employer who did not withhold Social Security tax from your earnings—such as a state employee.) It costs $40 for an annual license for an individual and $250 for a financial advisor. Be prepared, this Social Security calculator requires you to input your past and projected earnings history, which you can get from your online Social Security statement.

Social Security Income Planner

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This calculator provides an overview of several different pre-selected claiming strategies, or you can input your own strategy to see how it stacks up against other options. Price are $4.99 for a single use or $49.99 unlimited uses. They offer models depending on your, status such as single, married, widowed or divorced. They provide a detailed report that provides tables so you can see a month-by-month or year-by-year comparison of your potential claiming strategies. They also offer a mobile version for your iPhone.

Social Security Timing

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The full-featured version of this calculator is available only to financial advisors. Social Security Timing offers strong customer support. They also updated their software at lightning speed when new Social Security laws came out in 2015.

If you're in the finance business, you'll find this software valuable. They do offer a 10-day free trial, followed by a $49.99 per-month cost.