Should You Wait Until Age 70 to Claim Social Security?

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Waiting to claim Social Security until age 70 can result in higher monthly payments, but is it the right choice for you? It’s tempting. The day you turn 62, you’re eligible to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits. You’ve been having deductions taken for Social Security from your paycheck for decades, and now you can start getting some of that money back.

But is it wise to notify the Social Security department that you’re ready to start receiving a monthly check from them at 62?

Before we answer that, here are some relevant facts on Social Security:

  • The first Social Security check was delivered in 1940 to retired legal secretary Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont. The amount: is $22.54, which is worth about $466 today, adjusted for inflation.
  • In 2023, the average retirement benefit is $1,827 per month, according to the Social Security Administration.
  • The maximum Social Security benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age, which currently ranges from 66 to 67, based on their date of birth, is $3,627 per month.
  • How much you’ll collect when you begin to draw Social Security will depend mainly on how much you earn during your career.

However, one way you can increase your monthly check is to delay receiving benefits until you turn 70.

According to estimates from a Boston University study, only about 10% of workers wait until then. In addition, researchers found that claiming benefits before age 70 results in an estimated median household loss of $182,370 in lifetime income for claimants aged 45 to 62.

According to the Social Security Administration, those who turn 62 this year will have their benefit reduced by about 30% by claiming now instead of waiting until their full retirement age of 67.

For each year you delay receiving benefits past your full retirement age, you can add 8% to your monthly Social Security check. At full retirement, workers stand to receive 100% of the benefits they earned.

Wait until age 70; your benefits will be 76% higher, adjusted for inflation, than if you took them at age 62.

Patience is a virtue.

When shouldn’t you wait until you turn 70 to Claim Social Security?

As appealing as the numbers sound for those who wait until their 70th birthday, claiming early makes sense for some people.

According to J.P. Morgan Asset Management, those who don’t anticipate living beyond age 77 may want to begin receiving their Social Security benefit at age 62, or those who don’t think they’ll live beyond 81 may want to consider claiming benefits when they reach their full retirement age.

For those who anticipate dying sooner, it makes sense to start getting your check sooner rather than later. First, however, those claimants need to consider the value of their benefits they could pass on to their loved ones through survivor benefits, which enable a widow or widower to receive the full amount of their spouse’s monthly benefit.

Sometimes, life events hasten the need to claim Social Security benefits. Morgan’s research shows workers often retire earlier than planned because of health problems or becoming disabled.

Morgan’s research suggests that company downsizing is a common reason for starting benefits earlier. Many people don’t have adequate savings or a substantial retirement plan balance and rely on Social Security as their sole means of income.

Approximately 13% of retirees depend entirely on Social Security for their income, and 40% are more than 50% dependent on those benefits. This confirms that it is challenging for lower-income workers to wait until full retirement age or age 70 to claim retirement benefits.

The good news for lower-income workers is that the program is progressive, so it will replace a larger share of their earnings than for those who have had higher incomes during their careers.

Sharon Carson, a retirement strategist at J.P. Morgan, said, “Lower-income workers do, as a percentage of their income, get more out of the program.”

Wait as long as you can.

Because so much money is at stake by waiting to claim Social Security, do everything you can to delay receiving your benefits.

Consider working longer, withdrawing from retirement accounts before claiming benefits, reducing living expenses by spending less on things you don’t need, or downsizing your home.

As Boston University economics professor Larry Kotlikoff says, “You should beg, borrow, or steal to avoid taking your benefits too early.”

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