Social Security benefits can help bridge the gap between what you have saved for retirement and what you need to live comfortably during your golden years. For many retirees, monthly checks make up a significant portion of their income.
How much you get each month in benefits depends on what age you start to claim. If you are entitled to full retirement age (FRA), you will receive 100% of the benefit amount you are entitled to each month. But if you claim earlier than that, your benefits will be reduced – by up to 30% if you have an FRA of 67 years and have a claim of 62 years. On the other hand, if you wait until after your FRA is going to require, I get a boost in benefits every month. The extra money can also make a big difference, as with an FRA of 67 they can receive an additional 24% each month by waiting until they reach the age of 70 to claim.
However, very few people choose to defer benefits to 70. In fact, only 4% of women and 2% of men claim 70 years or later, according to a report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. The study found that the most popular age to claim was 62 years, with 48% of women and 42% of men claiming this age.
If you receive the smallest checks by claiming as early as possible, why do so many people claim at this age? There are some common causes.
1. You need the money now
Some people may have no choice but to claim benefits early, even though they know they could get more by waiting.
For example, if you lose your job in the early '60s and can't find another, you may be forced into an early retirement whether you are ready for it or not. And if you haven't saved enough for the ends to meet, you may have to claim insurance early, just so you can recover financially.
In this scenario, you may have no alternative but to claim benefits of 62 if you have to retire with little to nothing saved. But with some planning, you might be able to avoid that scenario altogether. The sooner you start saving, the easier it will be to build a healthy pension fund. Even if you are forced to retire earlier than you planned, you will still have some savings to live off, so you do not have to rely entirely on Social Security benefits.
2. You do not expect to spend decades in retirement
In theory, the amount you receive in Social Security benefits over a lifetime should be about the same whether you claimed early, with FRA or later. That's because if you claim early, your checks will be smaller, but you'll receive more of them. Wait to start receiving benefits and you will receive fewer checks, but they will be larger. If you live an average life span, the life-time benefits will theoretically end up being about the same when you claim it.
In reality, life does not always work so perfectly. Sometimes you can come forward by claiming benefits at a particular time.
If you are currently facing health problems and do not expect to live into your 80s or beyond, it may be a smart decision to claim sooner rather than later. After all, if you wait until 70 to start claiming benefits and only spend a few years in retirement, it doesn't give you much time to enjoy your money.
Of course, there is no way to predict how long you want to live, so it can be tough to decide if you are better at claiming sooner or later. But do your best to be honest with yourself about your health and look at your family history as well. If everyone in the family has lived to be 100 years and you are in the best shape of your life, it may be best to postpone the benefits. However, if you do not have the best health and you have a family history of certain illnesses or conditions, it may be wise to claim early and make the most of your money while you can.
3. You are ready to start looking forward to retirement as soon as possible
Even if you can afford to claim benefits, you may not want to if you are ready to start enjoying retirement as soon as you can. You may receive less checks by claiming early, but if you do not need the extra money you will receive by waiting to claim, you may be well.
Sometimes making benefits early can make the difference between just getting past retirement and living a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle. Especially if you have big retirement plans – like traveling across the country or learning exciting new hobbies – you may not be able to afford that lifestyle alone on your savings. However, the extra income you receive from Social Security can help you achieve those dreams. Although you will not receive as much per month by claiming 62 years as you would by waiting to claim, you may be willing to sacrifice some extra money to start living your retirement dreams sooner and later.
To claim benefits for social security is a big decision, and it is not one to be taken lightly. For some people, the extra money you get by postponing the benefits after the FRA is worth the wait. But for others, the best decision is to claim as early as possible and immediately start making the most of your money.