Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

3 Reasons Retirees May Regret Claiming Social Security at 62

By Christy Bieber – Updated Aug 17, 2020 at 11:15AM

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

Read this before you claim so you aren't left with regrets.

Retirees have a choice about when to claim their Social Security retirement benefits, but for most people, 62 is the earliest age at which you can start them.

If you're nearing this age and thinking about filing for benefits, there are a few things you need to know before you act so you don't end up regretting your choice. In fact, there are three reasons why you may wish you hadn't started getting your checks when you were so young. 

Social Security card sitting on a stack of money.

Image source: Getty Images.

1.You outlive your life expectancy

Social Security is designed so you theoretically receive the same income over your lifetime whether you start getting benefits early, claim them late, or start them on time. Early filers receive more checks, but each is smaller due to early filing penalties. Late claimers get much larger checks, but because they don't claim them until they're older, they get fewer of them.

But while the program is designed so this works out if people live to the life expectancy that actuaries predicted, not everyone dies on schedule.

If you outlive your projected lifespan and you claimed Social Security at 62, each month you live beyond the time you were supposed to represents a month in which you miss out on extra income. Your total lifetime benefits could end up a lot lower if you get lots of checks beyond the point when you would've broken even for delaying benefits

2. You can't afford your medical care

Medical care is extremely expensive for many retirees, with some recent estimates putting the price at $325,000 throughout retirement for a senior couple with high prescription drug needs. This is for out-of-pocket spending, including Medicare premiums and prescription drug costs not covered by Medicare. 

Many of these substantial healthcare costs are incurred late in retirement when your health has started to deteriorate. Unfortunately, for many retirees, their investment account balances aren't very healthy at this point either after years of withdrawals. If you find your savings is running short and you struggle to afford costly care, you may regret the fact you claimed your money early and shrank the size of your Social Security checks.

After all, these benefits are guaranteed to last for life and protected (to some extent) against inflation. Having a larger check when you really need the cash would come in handy. 

3. Your spouse ends up with lower survivor benefits

If you're the higher-earning spouse, claiming your Social Security checks early could leave your spouse in the lurch if you pass away first. That's because filing at 62 would mean lower survivor benefits.

Since the death of a spouse is a major financial shock for many retirees and often leaves seniors facing a major decline in their quality of life, you need to consider the impact on your beloved if you file benefits ahead of schedule. 

In fact, for most married couples, it often makes sense for a lower earner to start benefits early if someone needs to in order to provide household income while the higher earner delays claiming benefits as long as possible -- ideally to age 70 -- to max out survivor benefits. 

Think carefully about when to claim benefits so you don't regret your choice

Once you claim your Social Security benefits early, your income is going to be smaller for the rest of your life unless you undo your claim. You don't want to look back and wish you'd waited or regret not considering all of the consequences of starting benefits at 62. You may decide claiming ASAP still makes sense, but it's important to know the downsides before you make this choice. 

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Premium Investing Services

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