Social Security is more vital to most Americans than you might think. On average, it provides about 30% of retirement income for seniors — and for 12% of men and 15% of women, it provides 90% or more of their income.
It is worth learning more about the program so that you can make informed decisions about it. To get started, learn more about when you should start collecting it. Many like to claim at 62, but you might not want to. Here’s why.
When can you apply for your Social Security benefits
You can start receiving social security benefits from age 62 until age 70. Everyone has a full retirement age at which they can start collecting full benefits to which they are entitled, depending on their work history. For most people it’s 66, 67 or somewhere in between.
Collect stats before your full retirement age and your benefit checks will be smaller. Delay collection beyond your full retirement age, and they will grow by about 8% per year. So if your full retirement age is 67 and you delay the start of your payments until age 70, your benefits will increase by 24%.
Why you shouldn’t apply for benefits at age 62
This 24% increase is a great reason to delay collection until age 70 if you can. For example, it can turn a $2,000 monthly check into $2,480, which will turn an annual income of $24,000 into nearly $30,000. It’s an especially smart decision if you have a good chance of living a longer than average life.
Delaying to maximize your benefits is also a good idea if it’s part of a strategy with your spouse. While you’ll likely benefit from two Social Security benefit checks coming in monthly at retirement, when one of you dies, there’ll only be one check coming in — but it’ll be the larger of the two. Married couples might therefore consider delaying the highest income as long as possible to maximize this advantage.
Delaying retirement entirely is also worth considering, if you can, as the benefits are manifold. For one thing, relatively few Americans have enough savings saved to retire comfortably, so working a few more years may allow you to swell your retirement funds a bit. This money will also have to sustain you for fewer years. And while you’re still working, you could also benefit from employer-sponsored health insurance.
Few of us know what life has in store for us, so it’s worth considering a delay in collecting Social Security if possible. After all, once the checks start rolling in, you’ll receive them for the rest of your life, and annual cost-of-living increases will be applied to them. The bigger your first check, the bigger your future checks will be.
Why claiming at 62 might be right for you
Still, for many people, claiming benefits at age 62 or thereabouts can be a smart move. In fact, they will have no choice if they are unexpectedly laid off before their expected retirement date or if they have to resign earlier than expected due to poor health or some other reason. .
If you just need all the income you can get ASAP, go ahead and ask for it early. Yes, your checks will be smaller, but you will receive many more! The system is designed so that for those living in the middle, the total benefits received will be roughly equal whether you claim sooner or later. If your health is poor or many loved ones died too young, it makes sense to start collecting early.
Claiming early can also be part of a spousal strategy: if your earning partner is late in starting to collect, you might collect early, just to get income for the household.
Each of us is in a different situation, with different economies and needs. Learn about social security so you can make the right choices when the time comes, getting the most out of the program. And don’t grab your benefits as soon as you can at age 62 until you’ve considered all of your options.