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Is It Still Smart to Delay Social Security Benefits?

By Katie Brockman – Jan 8, 2022 at 9:15AM

Key Points

  • The age you claim benefits will have a significant impact on your retirement income.
  • By delaying benefits, you'll earn more each month.
  • In some cases, delaying is the right move. For many people, though, it's better to claim earlier.

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In some cases, delaying Social Security may not be the best move.

As you're preparing for retirement, one of the biggest decisions you'll need to make is what age you want to begin claiming Social Security benefits.

The earliest you can file for benefits is age 62, but if you delay past that age, you'll receive larger checks each month.

In the past, most experts recommended delaying benefits until age 70 to collect the highest monthly payments. But is that still the right move for most retirees? Here's what you need to know.

Two older people walking outdoors and smiling

Image source: Getty Images.

The case for delaying benefits

The age you file for Social Security is a personal decision, and it will ultimately depend on your unique situation. That said, in some cases, it may be wise to delay benefits.

The best reason to consider delaying benefits is that it will increase your monthly income. By waiting until age 70 to file for benefits, you could receive up to 32% more each month than if you'd claimed at your full retirement age (FRA). That could amount to hundreds of dollars per month, which can go a long way if money is tight in retirement.

Say, for instance, you have an FRA of 67 years old, and by claiming at that age, you'd receive $1,500 per month. If you were to claim at 62, your benefit amount would be reduced by 30%, leaving you with $1,050 per month. Wait until age 70 to file, though, and you'd receive a 24% bonus, giving you a total of $1,860 per month.

Keep in mind that, in theory, your total benefits should be roughly the same over a lifetime regardless of the age you file. By claiming earlier, each check will be smaller, but you'll have collected more of them over a lifetime. If you delay benefits, you won't receive as many checks, but each one will be bigger. However, if your goal is to maximize your monthly income, delaying benefits could be a smart move.

Why it may be better to claim early

While delaying benefits may be a good decision for some people, there are plenty of reasons to consider claiming earlier.

For example, it will give you more time to enjoy your retirement. You don't necessarily have to retire and claim benefits at the same time, but they often go hand-in-hand. Not everyone wants to wait until their 70s to retire, and by claiming earlier, you can get a jump-start on retirement when you're still young and healthy.

Claiming benefits earlier could be especially smart if you're battling health issues or have reason to believe you'll live a shorter-than-average lifespan. Again, you should theoretically receive the same amount over a lifetime regardless of when you claim. However, these calculations assume an average lifespan. If you're facing health problems, you could potentially collect more in total if you claim earlier.

Finally, life is unpredictable, and you never know what curveballs it could throw at you. If you plan on delaying benefits but then start experiencing health problems, for example, you may regret waiting so long to claim.

What age should you claim?

Before you claim, consider factors like your financial situation, your health, and how you plan to spend your retirement.

If you have a robust retirement fund and you plan on enjoying an active retirement, for instance, it may make sense to claim as early as possible. On the other hand, if boosting your monthly income is critical, you may want to consider delaying benefits to earn larger checks.

There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to choosing an age to file for Social Security. But by weighing all of your options and considering your unique situation, it will be easier to file at the right age for you.

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