Social Security benefits can potentially make or break your retirement, so it's wise to make sure you're collecting every penny you're entitled to.
Exactly how much you'll receive in benefits will depend on several factors, including your income throughout your career and how many years you've worked. The age you begin claiming benefits will also have a significant effect on the size of your checks, and with the right strategy, you could potentially boost your benefit amount by up to $900 per month.
How your age affects your benefits
The earliest you can begin claiming Social Security is 62 years old, and you can claim at 62 or any age thereafter. But the longer you wait to claim (up to age 70), the more you'll receive each month.
While delaying benefits may not be ideal for many retirees, you could receive substantially more each month by waiting a few years to file.
Say, for example, your full retirement age (FRA) is 67 years old. This is the age you'll receive your full benefit amount based on your income and the number of years you've worked. Let's also say if you claim at your FRA, you'll receive the average benefit amount, which is around $1,657 per month according to the Social Security Administration.
If you were to claim at age 62, your benefits would be reduced by 30%, leaving you with roughly $1,160 per month. On the other hand, if you were to delay benefits until age 70, you'd receive your full benefit amount plus an extra 24% per month, or around $2,056 per month — $896 more per month than you'd collect at age 62.
Is delaying benefits right for you?
Although you can receive significantly higher payments by delaying benefits, this move isn't right for everyone. In some cases, you may be better off claiming earlier.
Your health is one factor to consider before you claim. If you're currently battling health issues or have reason to believe you may live a shorter-than-average lifespan, it may not make sense to wait until age 70 to claim. In this scenario, you might actually collect more money over a lifetime if you claim sooner rather than later.
It's also important to think about your priorities when it comes to retirement. Is your primary focus to maximize your monthly income? In that case, delaying benefits is probably the right move. Conversely, if your priority is retiring as early in life as possible even if it means surviving on less each month, claiming early could be your best bet.
Choosing when to begin claiming Social Security is a highly personal decision, and it will depend largely on your finances and personal preferences. There are no right or wrong answers, but knowing all of your options can make it easier to make the best decision for your situation.
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