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Social Security: 3 Great Reasons to File for Benefits at 70

By Jason Hall - Apr 9, 2016 at 6:22AM

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There are some instances when it makes sense to file earlier than age 70. But for a lot of people, it will pay off to put it off.

Spousal (and survivor) benefits are one factor to consider when filing for Social Security.

One of the biggest questions people face when deciding when to retire, is when to start taking Social Security benefits. This is particularly true because Social Security benefits are paid until you die, but the monthly amount you get goes up substantially for every year from age 62 to 70 you put off filing. And while there are certainly a number of good and valid reasons why it might make sense to take your benefits sooner -- maybe much sooner -- than age 70, for probably most people, it will pay off to wait for as long as possible. 

Keep reading to learn five great reasons why you should file for Social Security at 70. Your situation may lead you to make a different choice, but for millions of Americans, 70 is the perfect age. Here's a closer look at why. 

You probably need the bigger monthly check
Depending on when you start taking your Social Security payments, your monthly check amount could vary significantly:


Percent of Full Benefits



















Data source: Social Security Administration. 

Though the monthly benefit will be higher or lower depending on when you claim, the Social Security Administration says that most people will end up getting the same amount of dollars whether they start getting paid at 62, 70, or somewhere in between. This is because the formula for payments is designed to give retirees flexibility in when they decide to retire.

Here's why the higher monthly benefit is better: More older Americans have more debt and too little retirement savings. 

According to studies from retirement plan managers Fidelity and Vanguard and the Employee Benefits Research Council, the median American approaching retirement age has less than $200,000 in combined retirement savings in 401(K) and IRA accounts. Though $200 grand might sound like a nice pile of money, it won't go far. Based on the 4% distribution rule, $200,000 would only generate about $670 per month in retirement income. 

Furthermore, a higher percentage of homeowners are carrying mortgages into retirement, with an average balance of almost $80,000.

In other words, More near-retirees have more debt than ever before, and retirement savings balances aren't enough to make up the difference. If that sounds familiar, you may need a higher monthly benefit to cover monthly expenses and not exhaust your retirement savings. 

It's better for your spouse 
Millions of retired couples will file for benefits on one spouse's work history. If this is your situation, then you'll want to consider not just your monthly benefit but also your spouse's benefit. If you start taking your benefit before your Full Retirement Age as defined by the Social Security Administration, your spouse's benefit will also be lower. 

Year of Birth *Full Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943--1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67
*If you were born on Jan. 1 of any year, you should refer to the previous year. (If you were born on the 1st of the month, we figure your benefit (and your full retirement age) as if your birthday was in the previous month.)

Data source: Social Security Administration.

This could be even more important if your spouse is likely to outlive you, as their survivor benefit would be cut if you file before Full Retirement Age. 

And while the above is a great reason why you shouldn't take your benefit any sooner than your Full Retirement Age, it may not be enough to ensure your spouse is financially secure if you die first. But if you wait till age 70 to collect, even if this means working a little longer, the nest egg you leave behind will be larger, helping to ensure your spouse's quality of life after your death. 

So before you take the early option, it's important to think about how settling for a lower benefit could impact your spouse when you're gone. 

More money later in life when you'll need it most
More than one retirement expert has said, "You can't plan to die on schedule." What this means is that you can't count on not outliving your assets, and your strategy with Social Security needs to consider the probability of outliving your other wealth. 

Consider your long-term needs, too. The older we get, the more care we need. Image source: Flickr user Eggybird.

Unless you have a very high likelihood of dying in your mid-70s or sooner because of family history or a medical condition, setting yourself up for more income later in life -- particularly when your other retirement assets may be depleted -- by filing at 70 could be the best thing you can do. This is especially true if you fall in line with the median retirement savings and debt statistics described earlier.

The unfortunate reality is that many retirees won't have enough income or assets late in life, while also being more likely to need long-term care that insurance and Medicare won't pay for. If you don't have the wealth or income to help pay for your care, it will fall on your family and loved ones. Filing for Social Security at 70 is one way you can help avoid being a burden on your family, while also setting yourself up for a better quality of life.

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