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3 Reasons to File for Social Security on Time

By Maurie Backman - Nov 10, 2019 at 6:31AM

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You have choices when signing up for Social Security, but here's why you may want to claim benefits at full retirement age.

The decision to claim Social Security isn't an easy one, particularly because you get an eight-year window to file for benefits that begins at age 62 and ends at age 70 (technically, you can file as late in life as you want, but there's no financial incentive to delay benefits past age 70). That said, if you want to collect the full monthly benefit your earnings history entitles you to, you'll need to wait until you reach full retirement age, or FRA, to file. Here's what that age looks like, depending on the year you were born:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

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 or later

67

DATA SOURCE: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION.

When we talk about filing for Social Security on time, we're talking about claiming benefits at FRA. And here are a few good reasons to consider going that route.

1. You won't slash your benefits

Though the Social Security Administration (SSA) lets you claim benefits beginning at age 62, for each month you file ahead of FRA, your monthly benefits will be reduced on a permanent basis. The only way that won't happen is if you withdraw your benefits application within 12 months and also repay the SSA every dollar in benefits it sent you.

Older man and woman doing a puzzle.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

The upside of filing for Social Security on time is that you won't have to worry about potentially slashing your benefits for life. That's especially important if you're nearing retirement without much in the way of personal savings.

2. You won't have to wait too long to collect benefits

Seniors are often encouraged to hold off on claiming Social Security until age 70, because delaying benefits past FRA boosts them by 8% a year up till that point. If you're looking at an FRA of 67, filing at 70 will result in a 24% increase in your monthly benefits that will remain in effect for the rest of your life.

But waiting until 70 to take benefits isn't easy, especially if you're struggling to keep working or find yourself out of a job sooner than expected. When you file for benefits on time, you don't subject yourself to that same added wait, which could alleviate financial stress.

3. You're still working

The SSA allows you to claim benefits and collect a paycheck simultaneously. But you'll risk having benefits withheld if you file before FRA and work at the same time.

Whether you'll be subject to benefits withholding will depend on how much you earn. Currently, you can earn up to $17,640 without impacting your benefits, but from there, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld for each $2 you make. If you're reaching FRA this year, you can earn up to $46,920 without it hurting your benefits. Past that point, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld for every $3 you earn. (Keep in mind that the Social Security income you have withheld for earning too much will be added back into your benefits once you reach FRA, so you're not forfeiting that money permanently.)

The great thing about filing for Social Security on time is that you don't have to worry about the aforementioned limits. You can earn as high a paycheck as you'd like and still collect the full monthly benefit for which your wage history renders you eligible.

Does claiming Social Security on time make sense for you? It depends on your circumstances. But if any of the above reasons resonates with you, it pays to consider filing for benefits in conjunction with reaching your full retirement age.

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