When Should I Start Collecting Social Security?
Social Security is a subject that always prompts client questions, especially this one: What’s the “right” age to file for Social Security? Am I better off collecting Social Security at age 62, full retirement age, or age 70?
A number of consumer publications have addressed this question. They’ve popularized the notion that everyone is better off waiting until age 70 because untapped benefits automatically increase by 8% per year. As a result, some pre-retirees have the impression that waiting to collect Social Security always results in higher total lifetime benefits. That’s definitely not the case.
Delaying Doesn’t Necessarily Increase the Total Social Security Benefit You’ll Receive
Delaying merely results in a bigger monthly check. Even with a larger check, you could wind up getting less in the long run. Why? Being older, your odds of dying before you file or shortly afterward are increased.
There’s also an opportunity cost to waiting. If you file at age 70 rather than 62, you’re postponing income from 96 checks. That means you won’t break even until you’re between ages 79 and 83. If you don’t live to a ripe old age, you’ve taken a gamble and lost.
What Is The Right Age to Start Collecting Social Security?
There’s no universally appropriate age to start collecting Social Security benefits. The “right” age depends on a number of factors, including your health, lifestyle, family history, and life expectancy. I suggest that clients also factor in the amount of money they have saved for retirement. If they’ve been diligent about saving, it may make sense to file at age 70. If they have very little saved, they may be better off taking a reduced benefit at 62. Every situation is unique.
You’ve paid into this entitlement program for years and deserve to maximize the benefits.