Retirement Planning

When is the Right Time to Take Social Security?

You can start getting Social Security benefits right away when you reach age 62. Here are some tips to help you decide if you should delay those benefits to get a bigger paycheck down the road?

When Should You Take Social Security

The Social Security program allows you to start receiving benefits as soon as you reach age 62. The question is, “should you?”

Monthly payments differ substantially depending on when you start receiving benefits. The longer you wait (up to age 70), the larger each monthly check will be. The sooner you start receiving benefits, the smaller the check.

From the Social Security Administration's point of view, it's simple: If a person lives to the average life expectancy, the person will eventually receive roughly the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter when he or she chooses to start receiving them. In actual practice, it's not quite that straightforward, but the principle holds.

The key phrase is “if the person lives to average life expectancy.” If a person exceeds the average life expectancy, and has opted to wait to receive benefits, he or she will start to accumulate more from Social Security.

Tipping Point

Social Security benefits accumulate for individuals who started to receive at ages 64, 67, and 70. The person who started to receive benefits at age 64 would accumulate $536,996 by the age 85. Conversely, the person who started to receive benefits at age 70 would accumulate $646,550 by the age of 85.

Assumes the maximum retirement benefit of $2,533 at age 67. Does not assume COLA.Source: Social Security Administration, 2013. - See more here. 

There is no single “right” answer to the question of when to start benefits. Many base their decision on family considerations, economic circumstances and personal preferences.

If you have a spouse, the decision about when to start benefits gets more complicated-particularly if one person's earnings were considerably higher than the other's. The timing of spousal benefits should be factored into a decision.

When considering at what age to start Social Security benefits, it may be a good idea to review all the assets you have gathered for retirement. Some may want the money sooner based on how assets are positioned, while others may benefit by waiting. So as you near a decision point, it may be best to consider all your options before moving forward.

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