What is the Best Age to Start Collecting Social Security?

Deciding when to begin receiving Social Security is a very personal decision that should be given serious consideration that involves weighing several key factors. The process can be a complicated one. If possible, it is wise to consult with a retirement professional that is up to date on the latest retirement figures and options.

When you should start getting your Social Security benefits depends on your personal situation. There is no set age or magical figure. Evaluating your personal details and the pros and cons will help you decide what the right age is for you and your family. The wrong choice, however, can end up costing you thousands in benefits to which you would be entitled.

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Having a smart retirement strategy in place, especially with regard to when to collect Social Security may mean thousands in long range planning. Legally you can choose to retire at age 62, however, the age that you reach “full retirement age” (FRA) for most people is 66. If you are in good health and can postpone retirement until your FRA, you will receive a larger sum from the Social Security coffers.

The following is an example calculation. Your individual situation will depend on your specific earnings history. More detailed information can be found on the Social Security Website.

  • If you wait and retire at your full retirement age of 66, your maximum benefit would be approximately $2,533. If you were to take your benefit at 62, the reduced benefit would be $1,923, a difference of $610 a month. However, if you postpone taking Social Security until age 70, you will get approximately $3,350, an increase of $817 per month.

If your health is good and continuing working past your FRA is an option, the Social Security Administration reports that the average 65-year-old male today can expect to live until the age of 84. Females at age 65 have a life expectancy of 86. About one out of four 65 year olds lives past age 90 and one out of ten live past the age of 95. This is pretty good odds to receive the full amount of Social Security income when you retire at the age of 70.

Another key factor to consider when deciding on your target age to begin receiving social security benefits is your current lifestyle. Lifestyles vary from person to person. However, if you still have a mortgage, large car payments, maxed out credit cards, or other amounts of large debt, it will be best to pay off or pay down your outstanding monthly debt. It can be difficult on retiree’s when they owe money to outside sources. Living on social security benefits is only a portion of what you earn when working. The added stress of having a lot of debt without the means to pay the bills can be a weight that can quickly lead to damaging results.

Other lifestyle factors include your hobbies and what you want to do with your retirement benefits. If your interests lie in traveling, certain hobbies, or other costly endeavors, you may want to postpone receiving your benefits until your FRA.

Spousal benefits can be confusing for a widow or widower. If your spouse has passed and you have reached the minimum age, you may want to consider taking your spousal benefit, if it will be more than what you earn from working or if it is more than the amount that your FRA benefit would be. Several exceptions in this benefit include that you cannot remarry or you forfeit your spousal benefit. Other information about spousal social security can be found on the Social Security Website. It is also good to discuss whether or not to utilize this benefit with a retirement or financial planner.

Another area where Social Security benefits can be challenging is regarding married couples that want to begin receiving their benefits. The goal is to maximize your combined benefit. An example would be if at age 62 you choose to take your benefit based on your individual earnings. Alternatively, you can choose to take a spousal benefit on your spouse’s earnings, but only if he/she has already filed. Again, if you both wait until your FRA, you can collect a larger benefit. Once again, it is recommended that couples especially consult a financial advisor to figure out the options to maximize their income potential prior to reaching retirement age.

It is also worth noting that if you do file for social security and begin receiving benefits, should you later decide you would rather wait until you reach full retirement age or age 70, you can do so. You simply have to pay back the benefits you already received and you must notify them within the first twelve months that you wish to suspend the benefit.

It difficult to predict our longevity, but by knowing the guidelines and options available, you can stay ahead of the game and maximize your social security benefits. Numbers cited throughout this article are not actual numbers. They are hypothetical figures given for discussion purposes only. However, by using the Social Security Website you can get an estimation of what your actual numbers may be. There are also helpful tips on their site that can answer more of your questions. Having a smart strategy in place before you retire––one that includes maximizing your social security benefits––is a good way to ensure that you will be able to enjoy your golden years.

Disclosure: Not associated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.


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