When you turn 62, you become eligible to start claiming Social Security. But choosing to do so means you’ll receive a reduced benefit for the rest of your life. To get your full benefit, you must wait and claim once you have reached your full retirement age, which is either age 66 or 67. And if you can wait a little longer, your benefit will continue to grow by 8 percent a year until you reach age 70.
If you chose to collect early, you might have found that, as you’ve eased into retirement, you haven’t needed to rely on Social Security as much as you thought you would. Maybe you’ve kept your expenses lower than you anticipated, or you’ve picked up a part-time job that brings in additional income.
The good news is that you have the option for a do-over to get a higher lifetime benefit — even if you’ve already started collecting your benefits. Here’s what to know
FILE A ONE-TIME SOCIAL SECURITY WITHDRAWAL
If haven’t yet reached your full retirement age and have been collecting Social Security benefits for less than a year, you can file a one-time withdrawal, where you’ll have to pay back the money you’ve claimed for that year.
SUSPEND SOCIAL SECURITY
If you have been collecting your benefit for more than a year, you still have the opportunity for a Social Security do-over. Once you reach your full retirement age, you can suspend your Social Security benefit. Your benefit will grow for each month that it’s suspended. You can restart your benefit any month that you choose up to age 70 when it will automatically restart.
When you suspend Social Security, anyone else who is getting benefits based on your record (your spouse, for example) will no longer be able to receive benefits while yours are suspended. One exception is divorced spouses.
WHAT TO CONSIDER
One key consideration when it comes to a decision about delaying benefits is your life expectancy. If your family has a lower life expectancy or you have a history of health issues, you may decide you want to claim earlier.
If you think you will live longer and want to rethink your Social Security claiming strategy, then you’ll want to make sure you can comfortably pay for your living expenses without relying on a regular Social Security check for a period of time. That could mean tapping into your cash reserves, 401(k) plans, IRAs, traditional investments, cash value from whole life insurance, or other forms of guaranteed income such as pensions or annuities. A financial advisor can help you determine what makes sense for you and your financial situation.
Another consideration is your marital status. If you’re single, waiting until you’re 70 to claim Social Security might make sense. But if you’re married and one spouse didn’t work, you may want to consider having one spouse claim at 62 while your spouse waits until they’re 70.
If you do have the means to cover your expenses for a few years, your delayed gratification can quite literally pay off. For every year that you hold off claiming Social Security after you reach your FRA, you can receive as much as an 8-percent bump in your monthly benefit.
HOW TO SUSPEND YOUR BENEFITS
To file for a voluntary suspension of benefits, contact the Social Security Administration either by phone, mail or by visiting your local Social Security office. After you make the request, your benefits suspension can begin as soon as the following month.