Once you turn 62, you can claim Social Security retirement benefits. But is it a good idea to start your checks at the earliest age possible?
To decide, ask yourself these three questions.
1. How is your health?
If you claim Social Security at 62, you will get as many checks as possible. Your benefit will, however, be much smaller than it would have been if you had delayed, since your payment goes up each month you wait until 70.
Those who skip checks beyond age 62 end up with higher monthly payments, while getting fewer checks overall. They'll need to collect extra checks for a while just to break even.
If you don't beat your life expectancy due to health issues, you won't live long enough to make up for payments by waiting. So claiming Social Security at 62 could be your best option.
2. How will your choice affect your spouse?
If you are married, you should think about your spouse when deciding when to claim Social Security.
Once you start your checks, you qualify your partner for spousal benefits. If your partner didn't qualify for Social Security due to not working long enough, you might want to file for benefits right at 62 so your spouse can also get payments (equal to 50% of your checks).
On the other hand, if you file for benefits early and shrink your checks, that will reduce your spouse's survivors benefits. A surviving spouse gets the higher of the two payments the partners were receiving. If you were the higher earner, waiting to increase your benefit would thus increase survivors benefits for your spouse. That will expose your partner to less financial hardship after you die.
3. What other income do you have?
Lastly, you need to think about other income sources.
If you're getting nothing from Social Security because you're delaying your claim, you'll have to rely more on savings. But you don't want to take too much out of your retirement accounts too soon. If you'd have to make withdrawals that are too large in order to fund your lifestyle without Social Security, you should claim your benefits instead.
No matter how old you are when you start your checks, Social Security alone isn't enough for a comfortable retirement. So whenever you file for benefits, be sure you have enough money from other sources to supplement them.
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