To Get the Most From Social Security, Log On
Laurence Kotlikoff knows a lot of people who are highly educated about money. But Dr. Kotlikoff, a Boston University economics professor, noticed over the years that many of his academic colleagues were making bad choices about one of their most important retirement benefits: when to claim Social Security.
“This is the most important financial asset for almost all retirees, but it’s so complicated,” he said. “I realized that if these smart people with great educations could make bad decisions about Social Security, it was only natural that everyone else would be doing that, too — and there was a lot of easy money available to people by getting it right.”
That insight prompted Dr. Kotlikoff to develop Maximize My Social Security — an online tool, created in 2012, that helps people make optimal decisions about claiming benefits. Today, the market for Social Security advice includes a variety of software tools that can analyze your circumstances and retirement income needs, and generate recommendations for getting the most out of benefits. A growing number of financial planners use software to advise clients on claiming, and some workplace retirement plans also offer such options.
The Social Security rules are complex. You can file as early as 62, but your annual benefit will be higher for every year you wait, until 70 — and most people claim too early. The most common errors? Many underestimate their longevity and the importance of Social Security’s guaranteed lifetime payments, or have fallen victim to political spin about the long-range imbalance in the program’s finances.