When should I retire?

Sounds like such a simple question...one asked by millions of seniors each year. Yet the answers are as unique as the individual asking them. To help future retirees sort through it all, the Social Security Administration has unveiled a new benefits calculator.

This isn’t a first for SSA but this latest version goes further than earlier models. The Baltimore Sun’s Eileen Ambrose provides a nice breakdown of how it works:

You won't be able to use it if you don't have enough credits to qualify for benefits - 10 years of earnings - or you are already receiving benefits.

You will need to plug in your Social Security number and mother's maiden name. The agency says the site is secure. And when you print out your information, it won't include these identifying details.

The calculator will ask when you plan to stop working and your average future earnings. It combines these with your earnings history so far.

With the click of the mouse, you can see what your monthly benefit will likely be at 62 - the earliest year to receive benefits - and at other ages. You can,for instance, calculate the difference in benefits by working one more year,something the annual paper estimates don't tell you. In my case, retiring at 63 instead of 62 would mean an extra $100 a month.

Our own senior policy analyst, Mary Jane Yarrington, says the more tools available to workers the better. She answers hundreds of questions from seniors and future retirees each year. Do you have a Social Security question? You can reach her at: “Ask Mary Jane”.