The earliest you can begin claiming Social Security is age 62, and in some cases, that can be a smart move. If you're eager to get a jump-start on retirement, for example, claiming benefits as soon as possible can help you retire earlier.
However, it's not the right option for everyone. While there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to determining what age to claim, there are a couple of important reasons you could regret taking Social Security early.
1. Your retirement savings could run dry
The earlier you begin claiming Social Security, the smaller your monthly payments will be.
To receive your full benefit amount based on your work record, you'll need to wait to file until your full retirement age (FRA) -- which is between ages 66 and 67 depending on the year you were born. By filing at age 62, your benefit amount will be permanently reduced by up to 30%.
If you have a robust retirement fund that can easily last the rest of your life, smaller Social Security checks may not matter much. But if there's a chance that your savings could run dry in retirement, you might need to rely on Social Security as your sole source of income.
For most people, surviving on Social Security alone isn't easy. The average benefit amount among retirees is around $1,670 per month, as of June 2022. Claiming early could reduce your payments by hundreds of dollars per month, which can make it even more challenging to make ends meet.
Also, as inflation surges, it's more important than ever to maximize your retirement income. Social Security benefits have lost around 40% of their buying power since 2000, according to a report from The Senior Citizens League. This means your benefits likely won't go as far as they used to, and claiming early could potentially exacerbate that problem.
2. It could affect your partner's benefits
The age you begin claiming will not only affect your own benefit amount, but it could potentially affect how much your spouse receives, too.
When one person passes away, the surviving spouse is sometimes entitled to the deceased partner's entire benefit amount in survivor's benefits. The more you're receiving, then, the more your spouse can potentially collect if you pass away first -- and vice versa.
If you have reason to believe that one of you will outlive the other, it may be wise for one person to delay Social Security so that the surviving spouse will receive larger checks. While this isn't the most pleasant topic to think about, even a few hundred dollars per month extra can go a long way later in life.
Maximizing Social Security
Social Security benefits can be confusing at times, but understanding how your age affects your payments will make it easier to plan for retirement.
Claiming early can be a smart move in some situations, but it's not ideal in all circumstances. When you're aware of the potential risks of claiming at 62, you can determine whether it's the right option for you.