Claiming your Social Security benefits at age 70 allows you to maximize the size of your monthly checks.
You can start your benefits much younger -- as early as age 62. But waiting until 70 enables you to earn delayed retirement credits available for waiting beyond full retirement age (FRA). These credits raise your check amount. Waiting also ensures you avoid early filing penalties that apply when you claim your benefits before your FRA. These penalties would shrink your check.
But while there are plenty of good reasons to wait until 70, there's one big reason not to: You don't know what the future will hold.
Waiting until 70 to claim Social Security is a gamble
If you delay claiming your Social Security until the age of 70, you're giving up a full eight years that you could have been receiving benefits. That can add up to tens of thousands of dollars forgone.
Giving up this money can be worth it in some cases, because of the higher extra monthly income you get after age 70 once your checks start. In fact, if you live long enough, the higher extra monthly checks should eventually make up for all of the money you missed -- and then some.
Unfortunately, you have absolutely no way of knowing if you're going to live long enough for that to happen. You also don't know what your health status is going to be by the time you hit age 70. You may have developed problems that inhibit what you can do. While you'll have extra money coming in every month, you may not be able to enjoy it very much.
There's also the chance changes could happen to Social Security in the coming years. In fact, if no action is taken, the program's trust fund could run dry by 2035 or earlier. This could necessitate an automatic cut to benefits if politicians don't act to stave it off.
If the automatic benefit cut occurs -- or if lawmakers make a change to Social Security that leaves you with less money -- you may regret that you didn't claim your benefits ASAP and get as much money as possible as early as you could.
Should you wait to claim Social Security until 70?
Ultimately, you're going to have to decide if you want to delay claiming your benefits until 70 in order for the chance to end up with more lifetime income from Social Security -- or if you'd rather just start getting paid as soon as you can.
You may be in great health or want to maximize survivor benefits, so you may opt to put off your claim. But if you don't want the uncertainty of trying to guess what will happen in a future that's impossible to predict, you may instead decide it's better to just start getting your money ASAP.
After all, there's an old expression that says a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush -- and that may apply perfectly to your feelings on your retirement benefits. Once you start your Social Security checks, you can use the money to enjoy life -- and you won't have to worry about whether everything will go perfectly for you to break even for missing years of checks.