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Turning 62 Next Year? Here's Why You Shouldn't Rush to Claim Social Security

By Maurie Backman - Dec 28, 2020 at 6:03AM

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Once you reach age 62, you're entitled to file for Social Security. But you might regret that decision big time.

There's a reason so many workers can't wait to turn 62 -- that's the earliest possible age to sign up for Social Security. Incidentally, it's also the most popular age to claim benefits.

If you'll be turning 62 in the coming year, you may be planning to file for benefits immediately. But here are a few reasons you shouldn't.

1. You'll slash your benefits permanently

You're only entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your lifetime earnings once you reach full retirement age, or FRA. If you're turning 62 in 2021, it means your FRA is 66 and 10 months, and so if you claim your benefits at exactly age 62, you'll slash them by almost 30%. That reduction will then remain in effect for the rest of your life unless you happen to undo your filing within that first year.

Older man at laptop holding phone to ear with dog on lap

Image source: Getty Images.

Now if you have a ton of money saved up for retirement and want those benefits to travel or enjoy life at an earlier age, go for it. But if you don't have a particularly robust nest egg and will need your benefits to pay for basics during your senior years, then cutting that income stream is a move you might sorely regret.

2. You'll have benefits withheld if you're still working and earn too much

You might still have a lot of energy to hold down a job at age 62. And while you are allowed to collect Social Security along with a paycheck from work, if you earn too much, you'll have a portion of your benefits withheld.

Specifically, if you're turning 62 next year, you can earn $18,960 without having it impact your benefits. From there, however, you'll have $1 in Social Security withheld for every $2 in earnings. Now you will get that money back once you reach FRA in the form of a higher monthly benefit, but remember, the reduced benefit you lock in by filing before FRA will remain in effect on a permanent basis. If you're still able to work, it could make sense to hold off on claiming Social Security a few more years.

3. Your retirement expenses may cost more than expected

A lot of people are surprised to realize that retirement costs a lot, especially when we factor in healthcare, which only seems to get more expensive by the year. If you claim Social Security at 62 and slash your benefits, you may find yourself sorely lacking in funds once your bills start rolling in and your paycheck from work is gone. Filing for benefits at FRA, or at least closer to it, could make your senior living costs more manageable.

Don't rush to claim your benefits

Many people file for Social Security at 62 simply because that option exits. Tempting as it may be to get your money in the coming year, don't forget about the consequences that might ensue if you slash your benefits for life. You may decide to move forward with filing for Social Security at 62 after all, but at the very least, make sure to think things through before going that route.

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