Maximize My Social Security is an online software that allows you to compare the amount of Social Security you will receive using different claiming strategies. This article is an in-depth review of Maximize My Social Security. We review the software and also show you how to use it to maximize your Social Security.
Maximize My Social Security is worth the $40 price tag to understand the best method and timing to file for Social Security. The software takes everything into consideration when calculating the amounts you’ll receive at various ages and the total lifetime benefit amount. With all the complexities around Social Security and the fact that you can’t take advice from the Social Security Administration, it helps to have the peace of mind given by this software.
Many people I talk to are worried that they’re not making the right decision when it comes to Social Security. And they have good reason to think this way: it takes a mathematician to figure out the filing strategy that works best for you. You don’t need to be a mathematician. You just need a piece of software that can run your specific retirement situation to come up with the most optimal claiming strategy. Enter Maximize My Social Security.
Video – Maximize My Social Security Software Demo / Review
Maximize My Social Security Review of User Interface
I give the Maximize My Social Security software an overall user interface rating of 8.4 out of 10.
The software looks up to date, unlike other Social Security software I’ve reviewed in the past. Entering basic information into the software is intuitive and painless. You can even upload your earnings history from the SSA’s website. One of the video demos gives you a how to for all those that want to see an example of how to upload their earnings history.
I believe that a software is only good if people use it with ease. Maximize My Social Security ranks high in this category because it takes zero skill to be able to use it: a caveman could do it.
Maximize My Social Security Review of Accuracy
I give the Maximize My Social Security software an overall accuracy rating of 10 out of 10. Hey, when something is accurate, it’s accurate.
I tested this software to the max. I tried everything I could to break it. I learned 2 things:
- The software is robust – it calculates whatever you throw out it without freezing and stopping.
- The software is accurate – it never makes a mistake as far as my review went.
And I exhausted all sorts of scenarios. I input different ages for a spouse, became newly widowed, and even worked part-time while in early retirement.
It handled everything I threw at it. I input the same exact numbers into my spreadsheet to check the accuracy of Maximize My Social Security. I couldn’t find a single scenario that came back from a different number that I calculated. This is quite surprising given that Social Security changes every year. I expected to find old algorithms working in the background creating miscalculations. Nope – Didn’t happen here.
Forecasting inflation rates and the nominal rate of return are also important when figuring out what your future benefits will be.
Why the inflation rate and nominal (not real) rate of return? The software uses this data to determine the discount rate. The discount rate is then used to calculate the present value of your lifetime benefits.
You have to compute present values anytime you’re doing a financial forecast because money doesn’t have the same value it did in 1913 (arbitrary date). It won’t have the same value 20 years out into the future as today either. You should always ask yourself if you’re dealing with today’s dollars or tomorrow’s dollars. Tomorrow’s dollars are worth less than today’s. Discount back to present value will give you your lifetime benefits in today’s dollars. It’s much easier to understand the value of a dollar today than 20 years out because in 20 years a Big Mac may cost $50.
I don’t do macro predictions. Aside from being a waste of time, they also wouldn’t be accurate. But I know one thing for sure: the US dollar (a fiat currency) will be worth less in the future than it is today.
I would recommended adjusting these two variables only if you’re confident in predicting future events. They’re found on the “Settings” tab of the main dashboard.
Maximize My Social Security Review of Output
I give the Maximize My Social Security software an overall data output rating of 9.2 out of 10.
The old saying garbage in – garbage out (GIGO) applies. You want to make sure all your inputs are accurate. Luckily, there are only a few inputs that really matter. Your and your spouse’s date of birth, earnings history, and age in which you’d both like to claim Social Security. The software does the rest. The output is impressive. It shows you in both graphical and data form the amount of income you’ll receive from Social Security by year. It also runs against over 2,000 different claiming scenarios to show your optimal strategy.
One of the best parts of this software, and one which I think would serve many soon-to-be retirees, is the calculator that shows the effects of working and collecting Social Security.
For example, if you’re currently 61 and contemplating what collecting Social Security at 62 and working will look like, this software has you covered. You can put in a retirement date of next year (year you claim Social Security) and also input earnings up through to whatever year you anticipate working, say 70. This software will show what the earnings deduction will be by year as well as how much net benefits you’ll get by year. So even the you filed for Social Security at 62, if you’re making $80,000 a year, you won’t actually get anything. Instead, your Social Security will be withheld (don’t worry – you won’t lose it) and be credited back to you later in retirement. This may or may not be a good strategy. How can you tell? Run the tool again with different numbers and dates and compare the lifetime benefits amount. The entire optimal scenario is based on the lifetime benefits amount. A higher lifetime benefit is better all things being equal.
Maximize My Social Security Review of What If Scenarios
I give the Maximize My Social Security software an overall what-if scenario rating of 9.4 out of 10.
The what-if analysis is the most important feature. You can change the dates around at the bottom of the screen just prior to running the report. You can see the difference between retiring at 62 and 70, or anything in between.
Maybe your spouse wants to retire early while you grind away at the day job until 70. What are the consequences of that plan? Well, you no longer have to try to figure it out on your own. The software can handle any combination you throw at it.
I run a lot of what-if scenarios in Excel. I’m trying to figure out an outcome based on assumptions. I’ll run what-if scenarios if I expect my assumptions to change. Take inflation, for example. Some models may have 3% inflation as an assumption. Some might have 2%. I want to make sure I factor in changing variables because life isn’t static. I want to know what may happen in the future. Not just what looks good.
This software provides you with endless what-if capabilities. What-if I want to stop working in retirement? What-if I want to only make half the amount of money I used to make in my 60’s? What-if I die early? What happens to my spouse?
Everyone has a different situation. The is no “right” age to claim Social Security. It’s simply the age that makes the most sense to you.
Maximize My Social Security Review of Reporting
I give the Maximize My Social Security software an overall reporting rating of 9.2 out of 10.
Reporting is important and having something tangible in-hand that you can take to a fee-only financial advisor is important too. Print a copy of the report off after you run it by hitting the “print to PDF” button. Now you can take this report into your CPA or CFP to see, in combination with your other income sources, what the most optimal withdraw strategy is. Maybe it’s taking money out of your traditional IRA and postponing Social Security benefits until a later date. Maybe you’d rather work part-time in retirement while you claim benefits at 62. The choice is yours and having the report will empower you to make the right decision.
The report is simple: a few charts and all the data to back it up. Sometimes I think I’d like to see more but then I realize that simple is better. Anyone can make things more complex than they are. That’s what half the financial industry does to keep you wondering if you’re making the right decision. It takes more thought and care to make things simple.
How to Use Maximize My Social Security
1) Login and input basic information – The first step after you purchase the software is to login and input some very basic information such as your name, date of birth, and marital status. Since Social Security’s calculations are based on the year in which you were born and your marital status, it’s important to put accurate information in these fields.
2) Input earnings history – The second step is to input your full earnings history. You can either do this manually or import the data from Excel. You can log into your my Social Security account and get the data there or export the data using the link “Download Your Statement Data.”
3) Run the what-if scenario – After you’ve input your earnings history, it’s time to run the report. The great thing about this software is that it uses some defaults for different dates so that you don’t have to think about it. The dates you can modify are at the bottom of the screen for both the claimant and spouse. The dates are: Retirement Date, Spousal Date, and Widow Date.
Click Run Report (takes about 15 seconds):
4) View and analyze the report – You’ll see the below screen after you hit the Run Report button. This is where the real power of this software comes in. It gives you a side-by-side comparison of your total lifetime Social Security benefits amount based on when you’d like to file versus when it is most optimal to file. Optimal in this case is based on maximizing your Social Security income. This isn’t the only output this software generates.
You also get the comparison chart below that allows you to see your exact Social Security income by year based when you want to claim Social Security versus your optimized date(s) for claiming Social Security.
Who Makes Maximize My Social Security?
Laurence “Larry” Kotlikoff and the rest of the team at Economic Security Planning, Inc. are behind the software. Larry is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and is America’s go-to source for Social Security. He’s a regular contributor over at Forbes. He’s in the mix. But the best part for you: he and his team keep their software up to date. That’s the key advantage of having a web-based software – updates are instantaneous.
Knowing when to claim Social Security is arguably the most important retirement decision you’ll make. You want to make sure it’s the right decision. The benefits of using a software to run the numbers outweighs the cost.
Peace of mind for $40 is a no-brainer. And what a return on investment!
I’ve look at other software products for retirees, specifically free web-based Social Security calculators. Maximize My Social Security is the best I’ve found for those who are serious about their Social Security claiming decision.
If you’ve purchased this software and made a Social Security decision based on it, I’d like to know. Simply input your email in the call-out box below and reply to my introductory email. Let me know if you took the report to a financial planner or made a do-it-yourself decision. Did you get a sense of peace of mind after using the Maximize My Social Security tool?