As you're preparing for retirement, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is what age you want to begin claiming Social Security benefits.
The earliest you can file is age 62, but for every month you wait beyond that age to claim, you'll receive slightly larger checks. By waiting until age 70, you'll collect your full benefit amount plus up to 32% extra each month for the rest of your life.
Delaying benefits until age 70 may seem like the wise choice to make the most of your money. However, there are a few reasons why waiting that long might not be the best decision.
1. You're betting on your health
One crucial factor to consider when deciding when to file for benefits is your break-even age. This is the age at which the total amount you've received over a lifetime by claiming at age 70 surpasses the lifetime amount you'd have received by claiming earlier.
Your exact break-even age will depend on how much you're eligible to collect from Social Security, but it generally falls between your late 70s and early 80s. If you end up living longer than that, you'll receive more money over a lifetime by delaying benefits than you would if you'd claimed earlier.
Of course, nobody can predict exactly how long they'll live. But life is unpredictable, and if you're battling health issues or have reason to believe you won't live well into your 80s, waiting until age 70 to file for benefits may not be worth it.
2. You could miss out on opportunities
Even if you do live a longer-than-average lifespan, time is still your most valuable resource. The difference between claiming Social Security at age 62 versus age 70 can have an enormous effect on the quality of your retirement.
This is especially true if you're eager to enjoy an active lifestyle once you retire. If you plan to travel the world, hike through the mountains, or simply have fun running around the backyard with your grandkids, these activities are often easier when you're in your 60s compared to your 70s.
That's not to say it's impossible to enjoy an active lifestyle well into your 70s or even 80s. But by retiring and claiming benefits sooner rather than later, you'll have more time to enjoy retirement when you're still relatively young and healthy.
3. It may not be worth the extra money
The biggest reason to consider delaying benefits is to earn larger monthly payments. And it's true that you can collect hundreds of dollars more per month by waiting to claim. However, if you have a robust nest egg, that extra month may not be worth the wait.
Before you file for benefits, take a thorough look through your finances to figure out how much you think you'll need to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Consider how your spending may change once you retire, then compare that to how much you have saved.
You can also check your estimated Social Security benefit amount online by creating a mySocialSecurity account. This estimate assumes you're claiming at your full retirement age (which is age 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later).
If you have a full retirement age of 67, claiming at age 62 will result in 30% less money each month. If you wait until 70, you'll receive your full benefit amount plus 24% more. From here, you can determine just how much you'll collect each month depending on the age you claim, and it will be easier to decide if delaying benefits is really worth the wait in your situation.
The age you file for Social Security is a personal decision, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer as to when is the right time to begin claiming. In some cases, delaying benefits until age 70 is truly the best option. Sometimes, though, you're better off claiming earlier.