The decision to file for Social Security is a major one. While your earnings history will have a big influence on what your benefits look like, the age at which you sign up will also dictate what your monthly payments amount to. And if you don't have a significant amount of money in retirement savings, you'll need Social Security to cover the bulk of your bills once your career comes to an end.
With a new year approaching, you may be wondering if 2022 is the right time for you to sign up for Social Security. Here are three questions to ask yourself to determine if that's the right call.
1. Will I be reaching full retirement age?
Full retirement age, or FRA, is when you're entitled to collect your full Social Security benefit without any reductions. (You can sign up as early as age 62, but if you file before FRA, your benefit will get slashed.) That age hinges on your year of birth and isn't the same for everyone.
If you were born in 1956, it means you'll be reaching FRA at some point in 2022, and so you may decide to file next year, knowing you won't take a hit on your benefits. Furthermore, if you were born prior to 1956, it means you've already reached FRA. And in that case, you can easily sign up for Social Security at any point in 2022 without a reduction in benefits.
2. Am I actually retiring?
If your goal is to leave the workforce in 2022, then you may need to claim Social Security to cover your bills in the absence of your paycheck. But if you intend to keep working in 2022, you may want to hold off on filing for benefits -- even once you've reached FRA.
For each year you delay your filing beyond FRA, the Social Security Administration will reward you with an 8% boost to your benefits. That incentive runs out at age 70, so once you reach that age, there's no sense in postponing your filing any longer.
But say your FRA is 66 and four months (which is the case if you were born in 1956). If you delay your filing until the age of 70, you could boost your Social Security benefits by a little over 29%. And to be clear, that higher benefit will be yours to enjoy for the rest of your life.
3. Am I turning 70?
Once you reach the age of 70, you can't grow your Social Security benefits any longer. If you'll be turning 70 in 2022, it absolutely pays to claim your benefits at that point. Delaying your filing beyond age 70 will only cause you to potentially lose out on income you're entitled to.
In 2022, Social Security benefits are getting a huge cost-of-living adjustment based on recent inflation data. If you sign up next year, you may be pleasantly surprised by what your monthly benefit looks like.
At the same time, don't rush into the decision to claim Social Security. Those benefits could be the one income stream that gets you through retirement, and it's important to put a lot of thought into your filing age.