A new planning tool and calculator was launched by AARP to help Americans decide when to claim benefits and prepare for retirement to best acheive their financial goals.

The Social Security Benefits Calculator is designed to be an interactive tool for users to evaluate the ideal age for claiming their benefits according to their financial goals.  The calculator has been launched in conjunction with AARP's "Ready for Retirement?" campaign that offers a ten-step approach for envisioning and planning for a secure retirement.

“Our research shows that many Boomers are worried about retirement because they don’t feel prepared,” said Jean Setzfand, Vice President of Financial Security at AARP. “With our new easy-to-use calculator and our ‘Ready for Retirement?’ resources, we want to help older Americans understand retirement as a life transition, visualize their goals, and take the steps needed to build retirement security.”

The calculator opens to an Overview tab that encourages people to wait to claim their Social Security benefits, noting that the longer they wait the more money they will receive on a monthly basis.  This recommendation follows data that indicates more than 50% of new claimants in 2009 elected to receive benefits at their earliest eligibility age of 62.

After a short series of questions, the calculator offers a projection of expected benefits and then displays a graph on how the amount received each month would grow if benefits were claimed at a later age.

“Too many people avoid planning for retirement because they think it’s just a numbers game, or they simply don’t know where to start,” concluded Setzfand. “More and more in today’s environment, though, individuals really have to take responsibility for ensuring their own retirement security."