Seniors have many choices for when to start receiving their Social Security checks. And the decision to claim at a particular age can impact both monthly and lifetime benefits.
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing the best time. To help you decide when you should file for Social Security benefits, three Motley Fool retirement experts make an argument for claiming them at three of the most common ages: 62, 67, and 70.
Christy Bieber: Sixty-two is the earliest age when you can file for benefits, and for many people it's the best option.
Often, retirees need to start Social Security checks to have enough money to leave the workforce. Beginning your benefits at the age of 62 could be the ticket to retiring early (assuming you have enough other savings to supplement them). If you want to leave the workforce — or need to do so for family reasons or due to a lack of employment opportunities — then starting your checks as soon as you're allowed could make this financially feasible.
Claiming benefits ASAP also enables you to get your money while you're still young and healthy enough to enjoy it. And it means you don't have to worry about living long enough to break even for any benefits you wouldn't receive due to delayed filing. Having this extra money coming in could also mean you don't have to take as much out of savings, which allows you to preserve your nest egg.
Finally, there's another important argument in favor of starting checks at 62. The buying power of benefits is actually falling because cost-of-living adjustments aren't large enough to keep pace with inflation. And there's an impending risk of a benefits cut if lawmakers don't act, since the Social Security trust fund is facing financial trouble.
You may want to start your checks before the value of these benefits erodes any further or before any cuts go into effect, either automatically when the trust fund runs dry in 2035 or because of changes to the benefits program lawmakers put into place to stop automatic cuts from occurring.
Maurie Backman: When it comes to signing up for Social Security benefits, you can choose any age between 62 and 70. In fact, you don't even have to enroll by age 70, though there's no financial incentive to delay your filing beyond that point.
There are benefits and drawbacks to filing for benefits at different ages. If you sign up at age 62, for example, you'll get your money sooner, but your benefits will be reduced on a permanent basis. If you sign up at age 70, you'll grow your monthly benefit on a permanent basis, but you'll have to wait longer to collect that money. That could mean having to stay at your job for a few more years, which may not be ideal.
On the other hand, if you sign up for Social Security at age 67, you'll strike a happy medium. Age 67 is full retirement age for anyone who was born in 1960 or later. If you were born earlier, you'll reach full retirement age a bit sooner.
Once you reach full retirement age, you're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your personal earnings history. And while you won't enjoy the same boost as you'd get by waiting until age 70, your benefit won't shrink, either.
Also, if you're planning to retire at the same time as you sign up for benefits, filing for Social Security at 67 means you won't have to wait too long to reach that milestone. And after spending a lifetime working, that's a positive thing.
Katie Brockman: Delaying benefits has its perks, and you could potentially boost your benefit amount by hundreds of dollars per month by waiting until age 70 to claim.
For every year you wait beyond your full retirement age (FRA) to begin claiming, you'll receive an additional 8% in benefits. So if your FRA is 67 years old and you wait until age 70 to claim, you'll receive your full benefit amount plus an additional 24% each month.
Depending on how much you're receiving in benefits, that extra 24% can add up. The average retiree collects around $1,500 per month in benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.
Say you'd receive $1,500 per month by claiming at age 67. If you were to wait until age 70 to claim and earn that extra 24%, that would bump your benefit amount up to $1,860 per month. That's an additional $360 per month, or $4,320 per year.
The best part is that these benefit adjustments are permanent. No matter how long you live, you'll continue receiving larger checks throughout the rest of your retirement.
Delaying benefits can be a smart move for a variety of reasons. If you have reason to believe you'll live a long life, you may receive more money over a lifetime by waiting until age 70 to claim than if you'd claimed earlier.
If you're married, it's also a good idea to consider waiting until age 70 to claim. If you pass away before your spouse, they may be entitled to receive your entire benefit amount in survivors benefits. By waiting until age 70 to claim, you can ensure that your spouse receives as much as possible in benefits after you're gone.
It can be tough to make ends meet in retirement, and delaying Social Security benefits can be a smart way to boost your income. Not everyone can afford to wait until age 70, but if you can swing it, it could help you enjoy a more comfortable retirement.
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