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When to Claim Social Security...It's a Weighty Decision

When should you begin claiming your Social Security Income (SSI)? Clearly, the decision is a big part of retirement planning. Too bad it’s not also an easy part. Then again, be careful what you wish for! While “one size fits all” would be easier for you, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be better.

Granted, some situations are super easy. If you turn 62 and you need the money to put food on the table, take it at age 62.

Otherwise, consider it a good problem to have if you can afford to be more deliberate, even if that causes more complications! There are a lot of squishy numbers involved, such as your retirement age, life expectancy, additional income expectations, and “the time value of the money.” (Money today is worth more than tomorrow’s IOUs.) If you’ve got a spouse, expect the complexities to multiply exponentially from there.

Here are three main decision points to begin with – for you, your spouse and your survivor benefits:

Earliest Available – Again, the earliest you can claim SSI is age 62. Of course your payments will be smaller then too – currently in the range of 70–75% of your full retirement payments.
Full Retirement – As the name implies, you get to claim full benefits at your Full Retirement Age (FRA). If you were born before 1955, your FRA is age 66. If you were born after 1959, it’s 67. If you were born between 1955–1959, it’ll be 66 and some months.
Latest Available – If your family tree has long limbs or you’re otherwise feeling lucky, you can wait to claim SSI until age 70. Depending on your birth year, that can increase your FRA benefit by 24–32%.

For your best-laid Social Security benefit plans, might I suggest consulting with a financial professional? Not only can we help you consider all scenarios before you decide, we’ve kept up with the gory details involved. At least this once, I think you’ll be best off if you don’t try to do the heavy lifting all by yourself.

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