If you’re looking forward to claiming your Social Security benefits one day, you might be assuming that you’ll have to wait until age 65. But you can actually start those checks rolling as early as age 62 — and as late as age 70 — with the size of the checks changing depending on when you start.
There are good reasons to claim your benefits early, and good reasons to claim them late. The most common age at which Americans claim their Social Security benefits is 62, so let’s take a look at why someone would do so.
Timing your Social Security claiming
First things first: You need to know your “full retirement age,” which is the age at which you’re eligible to start collecting the full benefits to which you’re entitled, based on your earnings history. For most of us, it’s 66, 67, or somewhere in between. (For those born in 1960 or later, it’s 67.) If you start collecting before your full retirement age, your benefit checks will be smaller, and if you delay starting to collect until after it, your checks will grow larger.
Before you assume that it’s a no-brainer to delay as long as possible, remember that those collecting smaller checks will collect many more of them, making up for much or all of the difference. The table below shows the approximate percentage of the full benefits that you’ll receive, depending on when you start collecting:
Start Collecting at:
Full Retirement Age of 66
Full Retirement Age of 67
The No. 1 reason to claim Social Security at 62
So… what’s the top reason to claim your benefits at age 62? It’s simply this: because you need to. Many Americans are woefully behind in their retirement savings, so they’ll need all the income they can get. Check out how much Americans have saved for retirement, according to the 2021 Retirement Confidence Survey:
Saved for Retirement
Percentage of American Workers
Less than $1,000
$250,000 or more
Obviously, people with inadequate savings would be well advised to work as long as possible — while delaying starting to collect Social Security. But many American workers don’t have that option. They may end up downsized unexpectedly or need to withdraw from the workplace due to health problems. According to the 2020 Retirement Confidence Survey, 48% of workers retired earlier than planned.
Other reasons to claim Social Security at 62
There are, of course, other reasons you might want to claim your benefits starting at age 62. For example:
To retire early: If you have managed to save sufficient funds for retirement, you may want to retire early. Doing so will allow you to be a younger, more active retiree, perhaps enjoying activities that might be more difficult later, such as tennis, biking, traveling, or gardening.
To coordinate with a higher-earning spouse: If your spouse has a stronger earnings history than you, they might want to delay starting to collect their benefits as much as possible to maximize their checks. So if your household needs some income, you might be the one to start collecting early.
If you might live a shorter-than-average life: If your health isn’t great and/or many of your family members have not lived very long lives, it can make sense to start collecting early, in order to receive as many checks as possible.
Social Security income is critically important for most retirees, so be sure that you read up on Social Security before making decisions about it. You might even want to consult a financial planner regarding when to start collecting.
The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you’re like most Americans, you’re a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more… each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we’re all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.