There are a lot of decisions you'll need to make as you're preparing for retirement, but choosing what age to begin claiming Social Security benefits is one of the most important.
The age you file for benefits will affect the amount you receive each month for the rest of your life, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly. The earliest you can begin claiming is 62 years old, and there are a few good reasons to consider claiming at that age — and one reason you should wait.
Reasons to claim at 62
1. You want to retire earlier
You don't necessarily have to claim Social Security as soon as you retire, but the two often go hand-in-hand. Without Social Security, you may have to depend primarily on your personal savings to make ends meet. If you retire several years before claiming benefits, you risk burning through your savings too quickly.
If you're eager to retire as soon as possible, you may also want to claim benefits as early as you can. Similarly, if you lose your job and are forced into an early retirement, you may want to claim Social Security for an additional source of income.
2. You don't want to bet on your lifespan
In theory, you should receive roughly the same amount in benefits over a lifetime regardless of what age you claim. By claiming earlier, you'll receive smaller checks, but more of them. Delay benefits, and you'll earn larger monthly payments, but fewer of them over a lifetime.
However, these calculations assume you'll live an average lifespan — which is around 79 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you end up living a shorter-than-average lifespan, you could potentially receive more money in total if you claim earlier.
Of course, nobody can predict exactly how long they'll live. But if you're battling chronic health issues or have reason to believe you won't live an average or longer-than-average lifespan, claiming early may be your best bet.
3. You've created a strategy with your spouse
If you're married and your spouse is also entitled to Social Security benefits, it's smart to come up with a strategy for when each of you will claim.
For example, you two may decide to have the lower earner claim benefits at age 62 to provide some extra income earlier in retirement. Then the higher earner can wait to claim until age 70, taking advantage of those larger checks.
Why consider waiting
1. You need extra money in retirement
By claiming as early as possible at age 62, you'll receive smaller checks each month. On the other hand, if you delay benefits (up until age 70), you'll receive your full benefit amount plus a bonus amount each month.
If you don't have much in savings, that boost in benefits could go a long way. For example, say your full retirement age (or the age at which you're entitled to your full benefit amount) is 67 years old, and by claiming at that age, you'd receive $1,500 per month.
Claim at age 62, and those checks will be cut by 30%, leaving you with $1,050 per month. However, if you wait until age 70 to claim, you'll receive a 24% bonus on top of your $1,500 checks, giving you a total of $1,860 per month. That's nearly double the amount you'd receive by claiming at age 62, and it could make a significant difference in retirement.
The age you begin claiming benefits is a highly personal decision that will depend on several factors. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of claiming Social Security at age 62, it will be easier to decide whether it's the right option for you.
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