Americans who qualify have an eight-year window to claim their Social Security retirement benefits. Although everyone has a specific "full retirement age," you can choose to claim Social Security as early as age 62, or you can wait as long as 70.

While you get higher benefits for waiting, there are still some good reasons that starting your benefits early can be the best idea for you. Here are three situations where it can make good financial sense to file for Social Security as early as possible.

Social Security card inserted in a stack of money.

Image Source: Getty Images.

First, the bad news

There are several good reasons for waiting, but the primary reason not to take Social Security at 62 is that your monthly benefit will be permanently reduced. The amount of your reduction depends on your full retirement age, which can be as late as age 67, depending on when you were born. Here's a quick guide to help you determine the effect of taking Social Security as early as possible.

If You Were Born In...

Your Full Retirement Age Is...

Benefit Reduction at age 62

1960 or later

67 years



66 years, 10 months



66 years, 8 months



66 years, 6 months



66 years, 4 months



66 years, 2 months


Data source: Social Security Administration.

Here's what this means. Let's say you were born in 1957 and are entitled to a $1,600 monthly Social Security benefit at your full retirement age of 66 years and six months of age. If you decide to claim your retirement benefit in 2019 when you turn 62, you can expect to receive monthly checks of $1,160 instead. This should certainly be a primary consideration when deciding if claiming early is right for you.

Benefit reductions aside, there are some good reasons for claiming early. Here are three of the possibilities.

It's all the same (theoretically), so if you need the money...

It's a common misconception that you'll get more money from Social Security if you wait. To be fair, your monthly checks will be higher if you wait and if you live long, it could work out in your favor. Even so, this is simply not true for the average person.

In fact, the program is designed so the average retiree gets the same amount of (inflation-adjusted) benefits, regardless of when he or she starts collecting. For example, if you claim Social Security at 62 instead of at your full retirement age of 67, your monthly checks will be 30% lower. However, the five additional years of benefits will make up for it, if you live for an average number of years.

Here's the point. If you need the money from Social Security before you reach full retirement age, don't worry about "missing out on money" by claiming early. There are several good reasons to wait, but this isn't one of them.

You need to pay for healthcare

I've spoken with many people in their early 60s who still work, although they have plenty of money in savings. When I ask why they won't retire, the most common answer I get is that they're concerned about healthcare costs. And they're right to be worried.

For a little more color on why healthcare can be such a burden to apparently well-off people, consider that the popular rule of thumb for retirement says that 80% of your pre-retirement income should be sufficient to sustain your standard of living after you retire. However, this assumes that your health insurance needs are met through Medicare, which you can't get until you turn 65.

Health insurance is significantly more affordable than it used to be, especially for older Americans, but it's still a big expense. Early retirees with low taxable income can qualify for subsidies to make insurance more affordable, but without a subsidy, the average 64-year-old couple can expect to pay an average of $1,693 per month for a mid-level plan on the marketplace. And also keep in mind that a mid-level or "silver" plan may not provide the level of coverage you're used to from your employer-sponsored insurance.

If you retired early but had initially planned to wait to claim Social Security, claiming at 62 can help bridge the gap between early retirement and Medicare eligibility and make it easier to afford quality healthcare.

Your spouse is older and is entitled to a spousal benefit

If your spouse was the primary earner, or if you simply didn't have much Social Security-covered employment throughout your working life, Social Security spousal benefits can be a big boost to your retirement income.

Specifically, if one spouse's benefit at full retirement age is less than one-half of the highest-earning spouse's, a spousal benefit can kick in to make up the difference. In other words, if you're entitled to a $1,600 monthly benefit at full retirement age, your spouse could receive as much as $800 per month based on your work record, even if he or she never worked at all.

One of the main requirements to receive a spousal benefit is that the main earner must be receiving his or her own retirement benefit before anyone else is allowed to draw a benefit on his or her work record.

Here's why this is important. While Social Security retirement benefits get larger if you wait beyond your full retirement age, until as late as age 70, spousal benefits max out at full retirement age. Therefore, if your spouse is older than you, it rarely makes sense to wait longer than your spouse's full retirement age to claim your benefit, even if it means that yours is lower as a result.

When should you take Social Security?

Of course, these are just three potential reasons you might want to claim Social Security at 62, and there are many others. On the other hand, there are also good reasons to claim at full retirement age, or to wait even longer.

The bottom line is that every situation is different, so it's important to know all of the pros and cons of each option, so you can make an informed decision for you and your family.

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