You’ve contributed to Social Security most of your working life, and you may have the number 62 — the age at which you’re eligible to claim your benefits — on the brain.
But think twice before you sprint to your local office on your birthday. When you claim at 62, you could leave money on the table by locking in a reduced benefit. For each year that you wait up to age 70, you can significantly increase the amount you’ll be paid each month for the rest of your life.
So how do you decide when to take Social Security? Here’s what to consider.
ARE YOU STILL EARNING AN INCOME?
If you haven’t reached your full retirement age (FRA) — which ranges from 66 to 67 depending on when you were born — Social Security will dock you if you make more than $16,920 per year. They dock you less in the year that you reach FRA, but it could still take a bite out of your benefits. So if you’re working, it may make sense to wait at least until your FRA to claim.
DO YOU NEED THE MONEY RIGHT NOW?
If you’ve saved adequately for retirement, you may be able to live on those savings and allow your Social Security benefit to grow. After your FRA and up to age 70, your benefit will grow by 8 percent each year. That can be huge considering it’s a check that you will get every month for the rest of your life. Let’s say you would have a $1,000 monthly benefit at FRA (at 66). If you claim at 62, you would only get $750 per month. If you wait until age 70 to claim, 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.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING SERIOUS MEDICAL ISSUES?
Allowing your benefit to grow pays off if you live a long time. However, 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 claim Social Security benefits as soon you’re eligible. One note here: If you’re married, you still may not want to claim early. That’s because doing so could reduce your spouse’s widow(er) benefit and therefore may not make sense for your financial situation.
HOW LONG DO PEOPLE IN YOUR FAMILY TEND TO LIVE?
The age that your biological grandparents and parents lived to can hint toward your own potential life expectancy. While there are many environmental, lifestyle and medical factors that can offset even serious hereditary conditions that did not exist just a few years ago, family history can give you a sense of whether it’s more likely that you’ll live to be 100 or die much younger than that. In turn, it can be another factor to consider when deciding whether to collect Social Security benefits sooner rather than later.
Think twice before you sprint to your local office on your birthday. When you claim at 62, you could leave money on the table by locking in a reduced benefit.