For most Americans, Social Security retirement benefits represent a large portion of reliable income in their retirement plans.

But maximizing your benefit will take proactive planning on your part.

Click on each of the decision factors below to learn more.

Your Age

Your Age

You have three choices:

First, you may draw benefits as early as age 62. But you will permanently reduce the amount you're eligible to receive.

Second, you may draw your benefits at your full retirement age (FRA). This age depends on the year you were born.

Third, you may delay drawing your benefits up to age 70. Each year you delay beyond your FRA increases the amount you're eligible to receive.

Your Taxes

Your Job

If you are employed and earning an income, it may be to your advantage to continue working and delay drawing Social Security until you reach FRA. This may help you avoid a potential reduction in benefits.

Once you reach FRA and start drawing benefits, you may continue to work with no reduction in benefits.

Your Taxes

Your Taxes

Social Security benefits may be liable for taxes depending on how much total income you receive during retirement. Other sources of income may include:

  • Job earnings
  • Investment dividends
  • Taxable gains from investments
  • Pension benefits
  • Annuity income
  • Interest (even tax-exempt interest)
Your Marriage

Your Marriage

There are three critical factors in determining Social Security benefits for spouses: Length of marriage, work history and the age of both spouses. In regard to the latter, you may benefit from staggering the age at which you each begin drawing benefits.

It's also important to understand the benefits you may be eligible to receive as a divorcee or widow(er).

Many scenarios can influence your decision about when to apply for – and begin drawing – Social Security benefits. That's why it's important to know how Social Security fits into your overall retirement plan.