Social Security benefits can be claimed at 62.
Most financial experts advise against doing that because starting checks ASAP means accepting less monthly income. See, Social Security is designed so early claimers get less money each month but get more checks. Those who wait get a larger check but receive fewer of them.
There are some circumstances, though, where starting your benefits at 62 makes sense. In fact, in one particular situation, you'll definitely want to file for Social Security at the youngest possible age. Here's what it is.
Claiming Social Security at 62 is the best choice in this situation
Claiming Social Security at 62 is the best choice if choosing this early filing age is likely to result in more lifetime benefits for your household. This could be the case in two primary situations:
- If you aren't likely to live your projected lifespan and won't have a spouse relying on your spousal benefits.
- If you're claiming early to enable a higher-earning spouse to delay starting their own checks.
If you aren't likely to live your projected lifespan
In the first situation, starting benefits ASAP would allow you to have the best chance of getting the most lifetime income. You wouldn't have to worry about living longer than actuaries project someone in your position would.
Waiting to claim benefits can leave you better off if you beat the odds and live longer than anticipated. Once you've hit your break-even point -- the point where the higher monthly payments make up for forgone benefits -- each larger monthly check leaves you with more lifetime income. The problem is, it can take over a decade to break even. If your health isn't great, you're better off starting benefits at 62.
Now, there's a caveat to that. Claiming early reduces the spousal benefits your widow or widower would receive, should you pass away first. The last surviving spouse gets the higher of your two benefits. If you were the higher earner, you probably don't want to shrink the checks your partner will get by claiming early. This is just one example of how marriage complicates things.
If you're enabling a higher-earning spouse to delay their checks
That brings us to the second reason claiming at 62 could maximize lifetime benefits. In some cases, you may want to start your Social Security checks ASAP to provide income for your household and enable your spouse to delay filing for their own checks.
If your spouse will get a larger benefit, it makes sense to delay their claim to max out your combined lifetime income. If they wait, they'll be able to avoid early filing penalties that reduce the size of their larger checks and can perhaps instead earn delayed retirement credits that increase the payment amount.
Maximizing the larger of the two benefits can mean much more income coming into your household over the course of retirement, and it can be well worth starting benefits at 62 to make that possible.