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When is the Right Time to Claim Social Security Benefits?

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There is no clear-cut answer. The truth is, the answer can be different for everyone. Not everyone has the same needs for Social Security.

Deciding when to claim Social Security benefits is a critical financial choice that can have a lasting impact on your quality of life in retirement. The timing of your claim affects not only the size of your monthly payouts but also your overall financial health, tax liability, and potentially, the benefits your spouse will receive.

While one family may rely heavily on their Social Security benefits, another may only need them for supplemental income during retirement. Regardless, money is money, and you want to make sure you are getting as much out of your benefits as you can.

A whopping 96% of retirees don’t choose the right time to claim their benefits, and you want to be part of the smart 4% (United Income). Keep reading for our tips to consider when designing the perfect Social Security plan for your family.

Here are key factors and strategies to consider when making this pivotal decision.

How Early Can I Claim My Benefits?

If you’re thinking about claiming Social Security benefits, the earliest you can start is age 62. While this might be tempting, it comes with the caveat of reduced monthly payments. You may receive a benefit that is 30% lower than what you’d receive if you waited until your full retirement age, according to Forbes.

For people turning 62 today, the full retirement age is 66 and a half years.

Consequently, if you can wait to claim your benefits until after you’ve reached 66, the advantages are generally significant. Furthermore, claiming benefits early while still being employed could increase your tax liability.

However, through adept tax planning, you can mitigate some of this downside, so consulting a tax professional is advisable.

What Happens If I Wait to Claim My Benefits?

The adage that patience pays off rings true when it comes to Social Security. If you delay claiming until your full retirement age, you will receive 100% of the benefits you are entitled to. Even more appealing is the option to accrue delayed retirement credits, which can boost your benefits by 8% per year up to age 70.

This can be an excellent strategy if you’re in good health and expect to enjoy a long retirement. For those confident in their longevity, waiting to claim until age 70 could provide a financial safety net that lasts through the golden years.

Strategies for Couples

When you’re married, the timing of claiming Social Security benefits takes on extra significance. Statistical estimates suggest a 50% likelihood that at least one spouse will live to age 92, and a 25% chance that one will reach 97, according to Financial Planner LA.

This makes optimizing Social Security claims a crucial component of long-term financial planning. In many cases, delaying the claim for the higher-earning spouse can provide the most financial stability over the course of both partners’ lifetimes.

Maximizing Benefits Through Investment

If you’re in a fortunate position where you don’t rely on Social Security for your living expenses, you have some additional options. Delaying your claim until 70 is one approach that maximizes your future benefits. Conversely, if you are among the top 1% of earners, you may opt to claim benefits early and then invest them.

While this could be risky for the average person, if you have a substantial financial cushion and a robust investment strategy, the rewards could be significant.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does Working After Retirement Affect My Benefits?

If you opt to continue working after you’ve started claiming Social Security benefits, be aware that earning above a certain threshold may temporarily reduce your benefits. However, this reduction ceases once you hit your full retirement age, and your benefits may be recalculated upwards to factor in your additional income.

What is the Impact of Taxes on Social Security Benefits?

Depending on your overall income, federal taxes can take a bite out of your Social Security benefits. Moreover, some states also levy taxes on these benefits. However, with proactive tax planning, you can strategize ways to minimize this impact.

Can I Change My Mind After Claiming Benefits?

If you’ve claimed benefits and later regret the timing, Social Security provides a “do-over” option known as a withdrawal of application. This allows you to stop receiving benefits and reapply at a later date.

Note that there are specific rules and time constraints for exercising this option, so it’s important to read the fine print.


So, when is the right time to claim Social Security benefits? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on a myriad of factors, such as your health, marital status, financial standing, and even your longevity expectations.

While claiming as early as age 62 gives you immediate access to funds, it often comes at the cost of permanently reduced monthly payouts. On the other hand, waiting until your full retirement age or even until you’re 70 can significantly bolster your financial stability during retirement.

This is particularly true for married couples and those with a strong financial portfolio.

It’s crucial to consult with financial and tax advisors to tailor a Social Security claiming strategy that maximizes your benefits and aligns with your retirement goals.


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