When should you apply for Social Security?

Differences in benefits can be substantial
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Differences in benefits can be substantial

As a first step in this retirement planning exercise, find out approximately how much of a monthly benefit you'll get under different scenarios. Use Bankrate's Social Security calculator to get an estimate; actual benefits will depend on your personal work history. For a more accurate idea, the Social Security website offers a secure retirement estimator calculator.

As an example, the table below illustrates the monthly benefit due to a fictitious worker at various ages. If the worker waits until full retirement age, his or her monthly income will be about 63 percent higher than if he or she begins drawing benefits at age 62 -- his or her earliest opportunity. If the worker waits until age 70, his or her monthly income from Social Security will be more than double the amount collected at age 62.

AgeMonthly benefit
67 (full retirement age)$1,791




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