The age you begin claiming Social Security will directly affect how much you receive each month, so it's crucial to choose wisely when deciding when to file for benefits.
Age 62 is the earliest you can begin claiming benefits, and it's also the most popular age to file, according to a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. In some cases, claiming as early as possible could pay off in retirement. But there's also one reason you should consider waiting a little longer to start collecting benefits.
Reasons to claim at age 62
1. You may collect more money over a lifetime
In theory, the amount you collect in benefits over a lifetime should be roughly equal no matter when you begin claiming. If you claim earlier, you'll receive smaller checks but more of them over a lifetime. If you delay benefits, you won't receive as many checks, but each one will be bigger.
However, these calculations assume you'll live an average lifespan, which is approximately 79 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you have reason to believe you may not live that long, you could actually come out ahead by claiming earlier. Although you'll receive less money each month, you'll have more time to enjoy your benefits.
2. You'll have extra cash to spend earlier in retirement
If you have big plans for retirement, claiming earlier can help you enjoy your senior years to the fullest. Whether you plan to travel the world or simply keep up with the grandkids, retiring in your early 60s may make it easier to enjoy an active lifestyle than if you wait until your late 60s or early 70s to retire.
You don't necessarily have to begin claiming benefits as soon as you retire, so you could choose to retire in your early 60s and then wait a few years to start collecting Social Security. However, by claiming earlier, you'll some extra cash to spend each month -- which can result in a more enjoyable retirement.
When to consider delaying benefits
1. You could potentially collect hundreds more per month by waiting
Although claiming benefits as early as possible at age 62 has its advantages, there's one major perk to delaying benefits: the bigger checks you'll receive.
To receive the full benefit amount you're entitled to, you'll need to claim at your full retirement age (FRA) -- which is either age 66, 66 and a few months, or 67, depending on the year you were born. If you claim at age 62, your benefits will be reduced by up to 30%. This reduction is permanent, too, so you'll be stuck with smaller checks for the rest of your life.
On the other hand, if you wait until after your FRA to claim benefits (up to age 70), you'll receive your full benefit amount plus up to 32% extra each month for the rest of your life. That can amount to hundreds of dollars more per month, which can go a long way if your retirement fund isn't as robust as you'd like.
What is the best option for you?
There's no one-size-fits-all approach to claiming benefits, so what's right for one person may not necessarily be right for you. That's why it's important to consider your unique situation when deciding when to claim benefits.
If you have plenty of savings and want to start enjoying retirement sooner rather than later, claiming early may be the best option. But if you want to maximize your monthly checks and receive as much as possible from Social Security, you may be better off waiting to claim. Whichever option you choose, be sure you're taking a strategic approach to make the most of your benefits.