Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

One Important (but Depressing) Reason to Claim Social Security at 62

By Christy Bieber – Feb 19, 2020 at 6:06AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Be sure to consider it, even if it's not fun to think about.

The age when you file for Social Security affects the amount of your check: The earlier you claim, the smaller your monthly benefit, while waiting means a higher benefit but fewer months or years of money. 

There are pros and cons either way, so it can be confusing to figure out the best age to start your benefits. There is one situation, however, when you'll often want to start getting your money ASAP: When you don't think you'll live very long. 

Older woman looking at financial paperwork with calculator.

Image source: Getty Images.

Why does claiming early make sense if you suspect you'll have a short life?

The Social Security system is designed to try to ensure that the age when you start collecting your benefits doesn't matter. The idea is that you'll break even regardless of when you file: as early as possible at 62, or at 70 when you stop getting any further benefit increases for waiting. 

That's why monthly benefits are reduced if you file before full retirement age and increased if you wait longer.

But the Social Security Administration can't predict when you will pass away. Actuarial tables and average life expectancies were used to determine how much the early filing penalty should be and how much delayed retirement credits are worth. 

If you don't reach that projected life expectancy, you may never break even if you wait to start benefits. In fact, it can take more than a decade before the higher monthly checks you get later in life make up for the months or years of income you missed by waiting. 

And unless you beat your projected life expectancy, you won't benefit from delaying the start of your benefits. That's because you won't end up with more money in the end unless you outlive your breakeven point.

If your health is poor or you have a long family history of serious health issues, it may not make sense to wait and gamble on living longer than you're projected to. 

There's still a situation where it may make sense to wait

Although claiming Social Security at 62 can make sense if you aren't confident in your longevity, this may not be the smartest move if you have a lower-earning spouse. 

Your spouse will be entitled to survivors benefits when you pass on. The amount of these benefits is based both on when your spouse claims as well as the size of your checks before you passed away. If you claim at 62 and lower your benefit amount, your survivors benefits will be lower, too. 

You don't want to leave your spouse in the lurch. So even if you don't think you'll live long enough to break even if you wait for a higher benefit, you may want to delay claiming so your spouse has a better quality of life after you're gone. 

Consider the big picture when you make your decision

Your health issues and the legacy you'll leave to your spouse are important when deciding if you should claim Social Security early.

But unless your spouse is depending on you, you likely don't want to wait to start your benefits if you don't think you'll live long enough to break even.  

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
327%
 
S&P 500 Returns
105%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 09/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.