Your Social Security benefit is a valuable source of income that will last your entire life, so it is important to know when to start collecting the benefit. The longer you wait to collect the higher your lifetime benefit will be up to age 70; after age 70 there is no benefit for waiting to collect.
Age 62 is the earliest one can begin collecting and if you decide to collect at the earliest the benefit is available you could reduce the amount of the it by as much as 30% for life. Depending on your situation this could be a good time to start collecting even with the reduced amount. The key is to work with a trusted advisor that can help you develop a solid plan based on your unique situation.
Waiting until your full retirement age will get you access to 100% of the available benefit. This age varies based on birth year and the IRS chart can be found here: https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/agereduction.html
Full Retirement and Age 62 Benefit By Year Of Birth
Assuming you can postpone taking the benefit until the age of 70 you could add as much as 32% to the benefit for life. This option is particularly appealing if you have a spouse that qualifies for a lower benefit amount because after your death, he or she could continue to collect your higher benefit for life. This option may not be best for everyone and always depends on your individual financial situation. Maybe you are still working when your full benefits become available and the extra income that the Social Security benefit provides is not necessary for daily living. In this case it may be advisable to wait until age 70 to gain the increased benefit for life as well as helping a surviving spouse with the higher benefit. In some cases it may be beneficial for a spouse with a lower benefit to elect to receive the benefit early while preserving your until age 70 because it will max out your lifetime benefit while providing additional income in the interim.
It is best to develop a personalized retirement strategy that involves your Social Security benefit and planning the timing for taking the benefit should be at least five years out. Additionally, you should meet with your advisor one year prior to taking the Social Security benefit to review the strategy to make sure the decision is still sound. Typically, once you elect to begin taking the benefit it is a lifetime decision. If within the first 12 months you elect to withdraw your application and are not age 70 you will be required to repay all benefits received so it is best to work within your personal financial strategy and only apply when you know you want to begin receiving the benefit for life.
It is important not to let market pressure derail your retirement income strategy. As stated, electing to begin receiving your Social Security benefit is all but permanent and working with a good advisor can help weather a rocky market while preserving your Social Security benefit. This is one reason why it is always important to include insurance as part of your overall retirement strategy. With insurance it is always better to have it in place as early as possible so reach out today to explore your options.
Regularly check your Social Security Statement for errors because this could severely impact your benefit amount. You can check you Social Security Statement here: https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. Benefits are calculated based on the income earned over the best 35 working years so even one year with incorrect information could be detrimental. Errors are not uncommon so make sure you check the statement regularly and well before your expected retirement age. A good advisor will recommend this and will make it a part of your overall retirement strategy.
As you can see there is not one answer that applies to everyone and the decision can be difficult. Here are a few things to consider:
- How is my health? Health plays a large role in the decision to collect early or wait. If your health is poor or you have a family history that suggests an earlier than average lifespan, then it may make sense to take your benefit early to maximize the amount you receive. Conversely, if you expect to live past the average lifespan and your budget allows you may consider delaying the benefit to receive a higher monthly payment.
- What is my employment status? If you are still employed and do not need the additional income to meet monthly debt obligations, then delay the benefit to increase your future monthly amount. If you are laid off unexpectedly or unable to find work based on your age, health, field, etc. you may want to elect to receive the benefits earlier to help supplement your monthly income.
- How badly do I need the money? You may have a large nest egg and do not need to receive the benefit so you could decide to wait. Maybe you were forced to retire earlier than planned and electing to take the benefit earlier allows you to meet monthly expenses without incurring debt.
- How will I use the money? It may help start a home-based business, payoff or avoid debt, enjoy more leisure activities or travel. The possibilities are endless, so it is better to think about this question well before it is time to make your benefit election.
The number one rule to remember when making your Social Security benefit election is to put yourself in a position to make an informed decision rather than an impulsive one.