The convenient thing about Social Security is that you get a range of ages during which you can sign up. You can first file for benefits once you turn 62, or you can wait until full retirement age to sign up and avoid a hit to your benefits.
Full retirement age is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later. If you were born earlier, that age may be 66, or 66 and a specific number of months.
There's also the option to delay your benefits past full retirement age and boost them by 8% a year in the process. But that's not an option most seniors exercise.
In fact, the most popular age to claim Social Security is still 62, though the number of seniors signing up at that age has declined. But before you make the decision to file for benefits early, check out these telling numbers.
The average monthly Social Security benefit today amounts to $1,543. In conjunction with generous retirement plan withdrawals, that's not bad.
But many seniors don't have much savings and are heavily reliant on Social Security to pay the bills. If you're short in the savings department, then it could pay to wait to file for benefits. Otherwise, you'll take an already modest payday and shrink it further.
Healthcare is the one expense that tends to go up during retirement, and it can be brutal. In fact, the average 65-year-old male-female couple retiring this year can expect to spend $300,000 on medical expenses throughout retirement, according to Fidelity.
Before you slash your Social Security benefits by filing early, think about how you'll swing your medical bills if your costs wind up falling in line with this estimate. You may realize you need a higher benefit to keep up with your healthcare needs.
The average IRA balance recently climbed to $130,000, according to Fidelity. However, one thing we don't know is the age of the average saver.
In other words, a retirement savings balance of $130,000 is excellent for a person in his or her 30s or even 40s. But for someone within a few years of retirement, it's not as strong.
If you enter retirement with $130,000 in savings and take a 4% withdrawal every year (a percentage financial experts often recommend), that'll give you $5,200 of annual income. That's clearly not a ton of money. And if you file for Social Security early, you'll be left with an even lower benefit to supplement your retirement plan withdrawals.
Choose your filing age wisely
For some people, filing for Social Security early makes sense. If you're forced out of a job prematurely, for example, then claiming benefits early could be your ticket to survival. And if you enter retirement with a ton of money in savings, then in reality, it probably doesn't matter when you claim Social Security, and so if you want that money on the early side, so be it.
But before you make that decision, dig into these numbers so you understand the implications of filing for Social Security before reaching full retirement age. You may find that waiting is a much better call.