Episode 14: What Age Should I Take Social Security?

Thank you for joining us for Episode 14 of our Money Wisdom Question Series, where we film answers to common financial and retirement investment questions. Today’s question is “What is the best age to take your Social Security?” Like many things, the answer to this is, it depends.

What Ages Can You Trigger Social Security?

The earliest you can trigger your Social Security benefit, under normal circumstances meaning that you don’t have a young child or are a widow, is age 62. If you choose not to trigger your benefit at 62, the benefit amount will increase every year. It will continue to do so until you reach your maximum benefit age, which is 70. Now, if you wait until 70 you will get the biggest benefit, but you’ll get it for the shortest number of years.

Determining When to Take Your Social Security Benefit

What we look at when determining when to trigger your Social Security benefit is, what is your retirement income going to look like? If you’re in a situation where maybe you have a pension and then investment savings as well as Social Security, then it’s relative to what portion of your income your Social Security is going to make up. If you are continuing to work, this is when full retirement age (FRA) comes into it.

Your Full Retirement Age & Social Security

Let’s say your FRA is 66 years and 10 months old. Well, if you trigger your Social Security benefit before you are 66 and 10 months old, continue to work and make more than a certain threshold, which is around $17 – $18,000 a year, you have to give back half of your Social Security in the form of a penalty. That’s a scenario you never want to be in. Don’t trigger Social Security and continue to work if you’re going to exceed that threshold because your Social Security benefit has to last the rest of your life.

Social Security & Being Married

Let’s say you’re married. If one of you passes away, you’re entitled to whoever’s benefit was larger. So, you have Social Security, which when you’re both gone is gone. You have the money that you’ve saved and when you’re both gone, everything you’ve saved goes exactly where you want it to go. In this instance, it might make sense to draw Social Security earlier to make sure that you get the maximum benefit out of all those years of payments you made into it. This can allow your money, the one true thing that you have control over from an investment standpoint, to grow because you have the freedom to use that as you wish both during your lifetime and after.

Takeaways

It’s a very big decision regarding what age you should take your Social Security. There were things available in the past like being able to file and suspend a benefit, which you can no longer do. You can still draw a spousal benefit allowing your own personal benefit to grow, which is a big opportunity that a lot of people miss.

In the subject of when to draw Social Security, oftentimes it’s best to wait. Maybe not until 70, but I wouldn’t draw it at 62 unless you really need more income at that point and are drawing it to let other things grow. Determining what age to take Social Security is unique to everyone’s own personal situation. It’s a good idea to sit down with a financial professional who can help guide you through this decision-making process so you choose the option that is best for you and your family.

Thanks for joining me and I hope you found this information helpful! If you enjoyed this topic and you want to hear more, you’ll love this Forbes article where Joel talks more about Social Security.

P.P.S. Feel free to submit questions here for a chance to have them answered!