You’ll often hear that it’s important to save diligently for retirement and not rely too heavily on Social Security to cover your senior living costs. But some people struggle to save during their careers, for a variety of reasons. And so if you’re nearing retirement and aren’t particularly happy with your savings balance, you could end up more dependent on Social Security than you’d like to be.
The good news, though, is that filing for benefits strategically could result in a lot more money for you throughout retirement. In fact, delaying your Social Security claim by just one year could spell the difference between struggling with bills and staying afloat.
Waiting 12 months could make a huge difference
The Social Security benefit you’re eligible for in retirement will hinge on what your wages look like during your 35 highest-paid years in the labor force. From there, you’re entitled to that complete monthly benefit once you reach full retirement age, or FRA.
FRA depends on your year of birth. If you were born in 1960 or later, it’s 67.
Meanwhile, for each year you delay your Social Security filing past FRA, your benefits get an 8% boost. That incentive runs out once you turn 70. But if your FRA is 67 and you hold off on your claim until age 70, you’ll grow your benefits by 24%.
Clearly, that’s a notable increase. But delaying Social Security until age 70 may not be feasible or desirable, especially if it means having to postpone retirement completely in the interim.
That’s why delaying your filing for a single year may be a more reasonable bet. And while it won’t have the same impact as delaying a claim for three full years, it could still make a big difference.
The average senior on Social Security today collects $1,661 a month. Let’s say you’re looking at that same benefit at an FRA, only you wait one year to sign up instead. At that point, your monthly benefit grows to $1,794, which results in roughly an extra $1,600 a year.
That additional $1,600 is enough to cover a full nine months of Medicare Part B premiums at today’s standard rate. It’s also enough to pad your grocery budget, cover the cost of medication, or pay for a home repair that can’t be put off.
Or that money could go toward leisure and entertainment. And at a time in your life when you aren’t working, it’s important to have options for keeping busy so you don’t get bored or depressed.
A notable impact
You might assume that delaying Social Security by only a year won’t do much for your finances. But actually, it could do a lot.
If you can’t postpone your filing as long as possible, at least consider putting it off for 12 months, especially if you’re not thrilled with your IRA or 401(k) plan balance. Doing so could buy you more flexibility in retirement and spare you a world of financial stress.
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