For many people, deciding when to claim Social Security is one of the most important financial choices they will ever make. The timing of the first check impacts the monthly payment you’ll receive and what benefits will be available for spouses and children.
If you’re debating whether or not to make that decision in the near future, here are some things to consider.
You can begin to receive your Social Security payments as early as 62, as late as 70, or any time in between. Here’s the tricky part… The longer you wait, the larger your monthly payments.
Let’s Talk Numbers
Let’s walk through a hypothetical example: Steve turns 62 this year and is debating whether he should begin collecting his social security benefits. Steve has a tough decision to make. If he waits until his “full retirement age” of 66, he’ll get $20,000 per year.
But if Steve decides he doesn’t want to wait four years, he’ll be forced to sacrifice 25% of his benefits, leaving him with just $15,000 per year.
But wait, there’s more. If Steve waits until age 70, his full retirement benefit amount increases 8% a year, to $27,210 per year.
Before Steve decides what he wants to do, here are some things he should think about.
How’s your health?
The #1 factor to consider is your health. If you have a chronic illness that’s expected to significantly shorten your life expectancy, it probably make sense to collect sooner rather than later. For Steve, waiting until age 66 means he’ll have to live until age 79 to make up for the four years he wasn’t collecting.
For most people, the early years of retirement usually include lots of travel and other big ticket expenses. But it’s important to keep in mind, all of these fun experiences cost a lot of money. Now that you’re on a fixed income, it’s more important than ever to evaluate your needs versus your wants.
In addition to the “fun stuff” — certain non-discretionary items such as property taxes, transportation and healthcare are unavoidable.
Last but not least, decide whether or not you plan on continuing to work. Why? First, if you’re under your “full retirement age” and you earn more than $15,720, your monthly payment will be reduced.
Second, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxed if you earn more than $25,000 (filing taxes as single) or $32,000 (married filing jointly).
So if you plan to continue working, even part time, it might make sense to delay receiving benefits.
Final thoughts: At the end of the day, you (and Steve! Don’t forget Steve!) have to do what’s best for YOU. There is no one-size fits all option when it comes to Social Security. Carefully review the information above before jumping in, or out, of a decision.