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The Best Reason to Take Social Security Long Before Age 70

By Maurie Backman - Feb 6, 2021 at 9:04AM

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You'll often hear that delaying your benefits is a smart move, but here's a good reason not to follow that advice.

Many of us are wired to want instant gratification. It's for that reason that saving money is so difficult -- we'd rather spend our money now and enjoy it immediately than save it and benefit later on.

It's this very mentality that causes a lot of seniors to sign up for Social Security as early as possible -- at age 62. In fact, 62 is the most popular age to claim benefits, even though it's well before full retirement age (FRA).

FRA is when you're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your personal earnings history, and filing before FRA will slash your benefits for life. However, you're allowed to delay your filing beyond FRA, and for each year you do, your benefits will increase by 8%, up until the age of 70.

Clearly, that's a pretty darn good incentive to wait. After all, that 8% increase in benefits is guaranteed -- forever. But in spite of that, here's why it could pay to claim your benefits early.

Smiling older man holding camera standing outdoors next to smiling older woman

Image source: Getty Images.

The upside of filing early

Filing for Social Security early means getting less money each month. But it also means getting to spend that money sooner. And if you can afford to go that route, it makes sense.

Life has a funny way of throwing surprises at us. A year ago, none of us would have ever imagined we'd be living in lockdown mode due to a raging pandemic that, after nearly 12 months, is still nowhere close to being under control. As such, if you've saved nicely for retirement so that you're not particularly reliant on your Social Security benefits to cover your bills, then it pays to claim them well before age 70 and enjoy them as soon as you're entitled.

Say you're 62 and are therefore eligible for benefits. You may be hesitant to slash your benefits for life. But without a crystal ball, there's no telling what the next two, three, five, or eight years have in store.

Maybe a health problem will creep up that requires you to spend time in the hospital. Maybe you'll get injured and struggle with limited mobility. Or maybe nothing particularly bad will happen at all, but if you're healthy now and you have the energy to put your benefits to good use, then it pays to claim Social Security sooner if doing so helps you fulfill some of the goals you've set for yourself.

Of course, this plan works a little less well when you're short on savings. In that case, not growing your benefits could backfire because you might really need every dollar in Social Security you can get to cover your basics.

But if you're in a position where those benefits will be your leisure money, go ahead and embrace that instant gratification. After a lifetime of hard work, it's fair to say that you've earned it, and that way, if your circumstances do change for the worse down the line, you won't have to live with the regret of not having taken advantage of those benefits sooner.

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