After contributing to Social Security for most of your working life, you might think that you should claim your benefit at 62 in order to get as much money out of the system as possible. While it’s true that you’re eligible to claim your benefit at 62, doing so could mean that you’re actually leaving money on the table.
That’s because for each year that you wait (up until age 70), your monthly benefit increases. So the longer you wait to take Social Security, the bigger your monthly check will be. And you lock in that higher benefit for the rest of your life.
So how do you decide when to take Social Security? Here are a few times when it might make sense to wait.
IF YOU’RE STILL EARNING AN INCOME
Depending on when you were born, your full retirement age (FRA) is somewhere between 66 or 67 (You can use this Social Security Administration chart to find your individual FRA).
If you haven’t reached your FRA and are still working, Social Security will dock your benefit if you earn more than $18,960 per year. While you won’t see as much taken out if you start claiming your benefit the year you reach your FRA, it could still take a chunk out of your benefit. So if you’re working, it may make sense to wait at least until your FRA to claim your benefit.
IF YOU DON’T NEED THE MONEY IMMEDIATELY
If you’ve planned and saved for retirement, you may be able to live off of those savings while you continue to let your Social Security benefit grow. Once you reach your FRA, your benefit will grow by 8 percent each year up until age 70, which can make a big difference in the amount of money you receive each month.
Let’s say your FRA is age 66 and your monthly benefit is $1,000. If you claim Social Security at 62, you would receive $750 per month. But if you waited until you turned 70, your benefit would increase to $1,320. That means the difference between claiming early at 62 and waiting until you’re 70 is $6,840 per year for life.
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IF YOU’RE HEALTHY
Another reason to consider letting your Social Security benefit to grow is if you think you might live a long time. But on the flip side, if you have a serious medical condition, or have been told that you’re at high risk for developing one, it may make more sense to take your benefits as soon you’re eligible. If you’re married, however, you still may want to hold off, because claiming your benefit early could reduce your spouse’s widow(er) benefit. A financial advisor can help you determine what makes the most sense for your financial situation.
IF YOU HAVE A FAMILY HISTORY OF LONGEVITY
Knowing how old your biological parents and grandparents lived to be is another factor to consider. While there are, of course, many environmental, lifestyle and medical factors that could come into play, your family history can give you a sense of your potential life expectancy and help you decide whether to start claiming your benefits sooner rather than later.