Social Security: When to Begin

For many people, Social Security will represent a major portion of their retirement income.  Choosing the right age to begin withdrawals is an important and often tricky decision.  Should you begin at age 62 or wait until the “normal” retirement age which, by the way, is a function of your birth date?  Alternatively, should you delay beyond normal retirement age? 

To make a better decision, let’s examine several factors.

Control.  One of the few things you can control about Social Security is when to begin taking it. 

Americans are living longer.  Since your decision about when to begin is permanent, it is important to remember that the longer you expect to live, the stronger the case for delaying benefits as long as possible.  Naturally…each person’s circumstances and financial needs are different.

Think carefully about starting early.  Age 62 is the earliest that an individual can begin drawing Social Security, and the reduction from your “normal” monthly benefit can range from 20% to 30% – again, depending on your birth date.  You may wish to start early if you need income now but feel it’s important to preserve your portfolio.

Full eligibility.  As of 2010, depending on how long you worked and how much you earned, your maximum monthly benefit at age 65 is just under $2200.  At age 70, the current maximum benefit is approximately $3100.  That discount range becomes significant.  So…if you plan to work until age 65, you might want to consider waiting for the full benefit in order to ensure a maximum benefit for a surviving spouse or if family history suggests that you’ll live a long life.

Seek professional advice.  A great starting point is your personalized Social Security Statement as is the Social Security Administration website:  www.ssa.gov.   In addition, your Financial Advisor can assist by crunching your personal financial numbers to determine the optimal timing to support the retirement lifestyle you envision.

Remember…your decision will be permanent.  Choose wisely.

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