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When Is It Best To Take Social Security Benefits

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Are You Currently Healthy

The Best Time to Claim Social Security? It Depends – Morningstar Video

Your health status may affect your timing decision, although possibly not in the way you expect. Beneficiaries already struggling with poor health in their early 60s may be tempted to take benefits as early as they can.

Receiving lower payments earlier means you get more benefits over a lifetime if you pass away relatively young. In general, the break-even point falls at about age 80 and 4 months when comparing lifetime benefits starting at 62 with a reduced benefit and starting at 70 with an increased benefit. For those who are currently ill and concerned they wont live to age 80, early benefits may sound like the right call.

But Weston cautions against this: Starting early is a common timing mistake, especially if you think you wont live beyond the break-even age where the larger checks for waiting more than offset the smaller checks you passed up. Westons concern about this strategy is if you outlive the break-even point and are stuck receiving a reduced benefit while also suffering from poor health. Most people dont understand how long theyre likely to live and the risks if they outlive their savings, Weston explains.Be sure to take careful stock of your financial and physical health when deciding when to start benefits.

How Should I Decide When To Take Benefits

Consider the following factors as you decide when to take Social Security.

Your cash needs: If you’re contemplating early retirement and you have sufficient resources , you can be flexible about when to take Social Security benefits.

If you’ll need your Social Security benefits to make ends meet, you may have fewer options. If possible, you may want to consider postponing retirement or work part-time until you reach your full retirement ageor even longer so that you can maximize your benefits.

Your life expectancy and break-even age: Taking Social Security early reduces your benefits, but you’ll also receive monthly checks for a longer period of time. On the other hand, taking Social Security later results in fewer checks during your lifetime, but the credit for waiting means each check will be larger.

At what age will you break even and begin to come out ahead if you delay Social Security? The break-even age depends on the amount of your benefits and the assumptions you use to account for taxes and the opportunity cost of waiting . The SSA has several handy calculators you can use to estimate your own benefits.

If you think you’ll beat the average life expectancy, then waiting for a larger monthly check might be a good deal. On the other hand, if you’re in poor health or have reason to believe you won’t beat the average life expectancy, you might decide to take what you can while you can.

A quick note about life expectancy

What Is The Most Popular Age To Take Social Security

However, the largest percentage of Americans appear to have made up their minds: They start getting their benefits at age 62, according to a 2020 analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center. In fact, the study found that for both men and women, the most popular ages for beginning benefits are: Age 62. Age 66.

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Taxes On Your Benefits

Your Social Security benefits may be partially taxable if your combined income exceeds certain thresholds. Regardless of how much you make, the first 15% of your benefits are not taxed.

The SSA defines combined income using this formula:

  • Your adjusted gross income + nontaxable interest + half of your Social Security benefits = your combined income

If you file your federal tax return as an individual and your combined income is $25,000 to $34,000, then you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits. If your combined income is more than $34,000, you may have to pay tax on up to 85% of your benefits.

If youre married, filing a joint return, and your combined income is $32,000 to $44,000, then you may have to pay income tax on up to 50% of your benefits. If your combined income is more than $44,000, you may have to pay tax on up to 85% of your benefits.

How Social Security Works

Is It Best To Take Social Security Benefits At Age 62, Or ...

Social Security is meant to supplement your retirement income and ease financial concerns as you get older. Its essentially a support system for Americas elderly, enabled by the 1935 Social Security Act. Most beneficiaries are retirees and their families. However, disabled individuals and survivors of workers who have died are also eligible to collect Social Security benefits.

Workers make Social Security contributions each month, which appear on your paycheck as Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes. Upon retirement, you can begin to receive Social Security payments, which will continue throughout the rest of your life. How much you receive each month, however, depends on when you elect to begin taking benefits and whether youve reached full retirement age at that point.

Full retirement age is the age at which you become eligible to start receiving full retirement benefits. It was 65 for many years, but the Social Security Administration amended that rule in 1983 because of increases in average life expectancy. Now, depending on the year you were born, you reach full retirement age sometime between 65 and 67. Full retirement age rises gradually from 1938 onward. Anyone born after 1960 reaches full retirement at 67. The Social Security Administration table below breaks down full retirement benefits for different age groups:

Social Security Administration Retirement Benefits
Birth Year
65+2 months for every year after 1937
1943-1954
67

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The Value Of Getting Help

For most Americans, the lifetime value of Social Security benefits significantly overshadows other sources of retirement income.

Benefits are adjusted annually for inflation, and they are not affected by the ups and downs of financial markets. Perhaps most important, benefits are guaranteed for life, which makes Social Security an important form of insurance against the risk that youll run out of money late in life. That can be especially important for women, who tend to outlive men but also earn less income, generating lower levels of retirement assets.

For many individuals, the best answer is to delay claiming as long as possible, up to age 70.

Your monthly Social Security benefit amount depends on when you file. You can claim the retirement benefit as early as age 62, or wait as late as age 70, but the amount hinges on your full retirement age the point when you qualify to receive 100 percent of the benefit you have earned. Currently, full retirement age is 66 and a few months for most people. If you claim after full retirement, youll receive credits for delayed filing claim earlier and there will be early-claiming reductions. Claiming at the full age is worth 33 percent more in monthly income than a claim at 62, and a claim at age 70 is worth 76 percent more.

Almost everyone takes it far too early, Dr. Kotlikoff said. About 6 percent of us wait until age 70, but it should be 85 percent.

When To Take Social Security Benefits

You can elect to receive Social Security benefits starting at age 62 or as late as age 70, though your full retirement age depends on the year when you were born. For example, your FRA is 67 if you were born in 1960 or later. If you elect to take your benefit before it, then your Social Security income will be reduced by as much as 30%. Although the total number of payments received will be higher than if you had waited until your FRA, your total lifetime payment could be lower.

When you reach your FRA, you receive a full benefit based on the amount of Social Security tax paid into the system through your lifetime, up to a maximum monthly benefit amount. Although fewer total checks are received, your total lifetime payout may be higher.

Those who are able to defer taking Social Security income until after their FRA are given a delayed retirement credit each year past that age until age 70, equivalent to an annual 8% increase for people born in 1943 or later. Waiting until age 70 results in the fewest number of checks received, but delivers a much higher monthly benefit.

To determine the most appropriate age for you to start taking benefits, you need to calculate your Social Security breakeven age.

When you elect to take benefits early, you make a permanent choicemeaning that your benefits are reduced over the course of your lifetime, not just until your FRA.

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Can I Retire At 55 And Collect Social Security

So can you retire at 55 and collect Social Security? The answer, unfortunately, is no. The earliest age to begin drawing Social Security retirement benefits is 62. … Once you turn 62, you could claim Social Security retirement benefits but your earnings from consulting work could affect how much you collect.

Joint Life Expectancy Calculations

Best Time To Claim Social Security Benefits

The second thing to know about Social Security when married is your joint life expectancy. When couples are planning for retirement or annuity payments, they often use a joint life expectancy in which they take the life expectancy of their partner into account as well.

The longer your expected joint life expectancy, the more beneficial it is to delay filing for Social Security and vice versa. For example, if your spouse is 15 years younger than you, your joint life expectancy will likely be longer. Here is a joint life expectancy calculator by the SSA. Despite making actuarial calculations, theres still no guarantee about the best time to take Social Security for each spouse. Everything is just a guess.

Then there is a situation where there is a higher earning couple and a lower earning couple. In general, it is recommended the higher earner delay until 70, health permitted, and the lower earner file sooner for Social Security. When the higher earner delays benefits, it increases the amount of benefits the couple gets so long as either partner is alive. Further, waiting increases the persons own retirement benefits and the survivor benefits, if the lower earner would outlive the higher earner.

For the lower earner, if either partner is in poor health, its better to file for Social Security earlier. The lower earner is thinking about how long it will be before one spouse has died. The higher earner needs to estimate how long it will be before both spouses will die.

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Can A Person Who Is Due A Public Pension Also Collect Social Security Benefits

Two rules could reduce benefits for people who are also entitled to a public pension on earnings not covered by Social Security.

One rule is the windfall elimination provision , which applies to people who worked at jobs covered by Social Security but also worked as noncovered government employees and are due a pension.

When it is time to claim benefits, many people are unprepared for these cuts, Mr. Blair said. Possible W.E.P.-related reductions are not reflected in the workers Social Security statement, which shows the history of annual earnings and estimates of future benefits only for jobs covered by Social Security.

You can have someone who looks at the Social Security statement and it shows a benefit of $1,000 at full retirement age, Mr. Blair said. But the individual a teacher who is due a public pension, for example may be surprised later if the benefit is much lower, he said.

In addition to W.E.P. reductions, a government pensioner who applies for a Social Security spousal or survivor benefit can face reductions. The government pension offset reduces those benefits by two-thirds of the government pension.

Mr. Blair said individuals who are eligible for a public pension and Social Security can estimate their future benefits by running the numbers on the W.E.P. and G.P.O. calculators.

Pensioners are exempt from the W.E.P. offset if they paid into Social Security for 30 years or more in jobs with substantial earnings .

What’s Full Retirement Age

Full retirement age is when you’re eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. Your full retirement age depends on your birth year: Under current law, if you were born in 1955 or later, your full retirement age can be anywhere between age 66 and 2 monthsall the way up to age 67 for those born after 1959. If you were born before 1955, you’ve already reached age 66 and full retirement age.

Retirement ages for full Social Security benefits

If you were born in

Your full retirement age is

1954 or earlier

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When A Spouse Dies

When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse is entitled to receive the higher of their own benefit or their deceased spouses benefit. Thats why financial planners often advise the higher-earning spouse to delay claiming. If the higher-earning spouse dies first, then the surviving, lower-earning spouse will receive a larger Social Security check for life.

When the surviving spouse hasnt reached their FRA, they will be entitled to prorated amounts starting at age 60. Once at their FRA, the surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the deceased spouses benefit or their own benefit, whichever is higher.

Top Reasons To Start Your Social Security Benefits Early

What is the Maximum Social Security Benefit?

Americans have several good reasons to file for benefits early, but most would be much better served by waiting until age 70, Kotlikoff says.

“For 85 percent of Americans filing at age 70 is the best option,” he says, but just a small handful are. “Some Americans need to start earlier for cash flow reasons or other reasons.”

Here are some reasons that Americans may consider filing early for retirement.

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Policy Basics: Top Ten Facts About Social Security

Social Security provides a foundation of income on which workers can build to plan for their retirement. It also provides valuable social insurance protection to workers who become disabled and to families whose breadwinner dies.

Eighty-five years after President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, Social Security remains one of the nations most successful, effective, and popular programs.

Delay If You Are Financially Secure

Lets say you retire a 401k millionaire at age 62. You are also very healthy. In such a scenario, delaying Social Security at least until the full retirement age of 66 will likely result in more Social Security benefits over your lifetime.

Early retirement, according to the government, is retiring before age 66. Therefore, your Social Security benefit is reduced 5/9 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of one percent per month.

For example, if you elect to take Social Security at age 62, you will only receive 75% of full benefits. Therefore, it may be good for most financially savvy people of average-to-good health to wait until at least the full retirement age to start receiving Social Security.

The IRS has a nice reduced benefits table here. Remember, once you elect to take Social Security benefits, youve locked in your Social Security benefits plus cost of living adjustment for the rest of your life.

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Youre Concerned Social Security Will Disappear

Some people are concerned about potential Social Security changes in the future, such as higher retirement ages, lower benefits or higher taxes on benefits. As a result, they want to take the sure thing as soon as possible. In a 2017 Social Security summary, the government said Social Security trust funds will be depleted in 2034. Even then, however, annual Social Security taxes are projected to keep benefits at almost three-fourths of current levels.

You’re Only Working Part

Social Security and the best time to start taking it when you retire

If you claim Social Security prior to your full retirement age while still holding down a part-time job, you might have your benefits reduced if your work income exceeds the annual limit. For 2021, if you are under full retirement age, your benefits go down by $1 for every $2 your income exceeds $18,960. If you reach full retirement age in 2021, your benefits go down by $1 for every $3 your income exceeds $50,520 prior to reaching full retirement age. If you’re working part-time to help make ends meet, taking Social Security at 62 might make sense.

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Taking Social Security: How To Benefit By Waiting

For those who are able to do so, it may make sense to wait even longer, because youll receive a larger monthly benefit even more than your full benefit. Every month past your full retirement that you delay, Social Security will increase your check by about 0.7 percent per month.

If your full retirement age is 66, then heres how much your check would increase:

Retirement ageNew benefit A $1,000 check becomes
$1,320

So if your full retirement age is 66, then if you can wait two more years and claim benefits at age 68, youll increase your monthly check by 16 percent. In this case, if your full benefit were $1,000 a month, your new benefit would become $1,160 per month. And youll still receive cost of living adjustments on top of this amount, typically raising your payout a little each year.

Workers have other ways to grow their Social Security benefits, too, but its important to start early.

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