There are many factors that can affect the amount you receive in Social Security benefits each month, but one of the most critical is the age you begin claiming.
While many experts recommend waiting until age 70 to file because it will result in the largest payments each month, that’s not always the best move for everyone. The earliest you can begin claiming is age 62, and there are a few reasons why filing as soon as possible could be a smart strategy.
1. It can give you a jump start on retirement
Technically, you don’t have to retire and claim Social Security at the same time. For most people, though, the two go hand in hand. By claiming benefits as early as possible, you may also be able to retire sooner.
This could be especially smart for those who want to enjoy an active lifestyle in retirement. While some retirees remain active well into their 70s or even 80s, not everyone has that luxury. Whether you plan to travel, take up new hobbies, or simply keep up with the grandkids, claiming early can give you more time to enjoy your retirement when you’re still young and healthy.
2. It will boost your income
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to choose when they retire. If you lose your job or develop health problems and are unable to work any longer, you may have to retire earlier whether you’re ready for it or not.
While you could still delay Social Security, that means you’d need to live off your savings or other sources of income until you file. If your savings are sparse, you may have no choice but to claim Social Security early.
Even if you can afford to live solely off your retirement fund, though, you could still be better off filing for benefits early. When more of your income is coming from Social Security, you can withdraw less from your savings, and your investments will grow more over time.
3. You might come out ahead in the long run
In theory, the amount you receive from Social Security should be roughly the same regardless of when you claim. You’ll either receive more checks but each one will be smaller, or you’ll receive fewer, larger payments.
However, this assumes you’ll live an average lifespan. If you live a longer-than-average lifespan, you could collect more over a lifetime if you delay benefits. But if you end up living a shorter-than-average lifespan, you could come out ahead by claiming earlier.
For most people, the breakeven age (or the age at which you’d earn more in total by delaying benefits) is somewhere in your late 70s or early 80s. If you expect to live longer than that, delaying benefits might be a smart move. But if you don’t anticipate living that long or simply don’t want to bet your Social Security on your longevity, claiming early might be your best strategy.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing what age to file for Social Security. But by considering your own unique situation, it will be easier to decide whether claiming early is the right move for you.
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