Your employees’ retirement timing decisions will depend on a variety of factors, including their accumulated vested assets in your company’s plan. Another key variable is Social Security. But the Social Security benefit “claiming strategy” that’s best for them isn’t always easy to determine. However, online Social Security benefit calculators can help.

The basic task for most people is weighing the pros and cons of retiring and claiming benefits at the earliest possible age (62), “normal” retirement age (which varies depending on the year they were born), age 70 (at which point deferring claiming benefits doesn’t affect the amount), or some point in between.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), in 2015 about 40% of men and 47% of women claimed benefits at age 62. Those percentages have fallen from 56% and 60%, respectively, during the past decade. Also in 2015, 21% of men and 15% of women worked until their full retirement age of 66.

The SSA recently issued a study comparing six free online calculators that focus exclusively or primarily on Social Security benefits. One was created by the SSA itself, and the others by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Center for Retirement Research, AARP, Financial Engines, and Bankrate. Many more exist.

The SSA study, A Comparison of Free Online Tools for Individuals Deciding When to Claim Social Security Benefits, didn’t rate the different calculators. But in describing how each works and detailing their advantages and limitations, the study concludes that there’s no single available free tool that meets every need. However, the resources identified can provide some useful guidance to employees.

Advising your employees to review the SSA study and the different online tools could be helpful as they begin to contemplate the timing of their retirement. Consider sharing the information as part of your overall employee retirement benefits education. You can find the study on the SSA’s website.

BPM is one of the largest California-based accounting and consulting firms, ranking in the top 50 in the country. It has served the San Francisco Bay Area's emerging and mid-cap businesses, as well as high-net-worth individuals, since 1986. Our Employee Benefits team consists of professionals with extensive knowledge of ERISA guidelines and deep expertise performing employee benefit plan audits. We can help you craft a smooth-running plan that serves your employees while mitigating associated risk. For more information or for a free expert consultation, contact Jenise Gaskin at (925) 296-1016, Michelle Ausburn at (707) 524-6588 or visit us at

Jenise Gaskin - CPA - Advisory

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