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When Should You Collect Social Security?

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When Should You Collect Social Security?

Sandra Diaz

Reaching retirement is an exciting milestone many Americans actively work toward and look forward to. In recent years, a growing number of people have chosen to delay retirement because they simply aren’t ready to leave the workforce, or because they want to ensure they don’t outlive their savings.¹ But as you approach your early 60s, you should consider when to start collecting Social Security benefits. It’s important to understand that when you start collecting will affect how much you (and your spouse, if you have one) can expect to receive.

Currently, workers can begin collecting Social Security as early as age 62 and as late as age 70. The longer you wait to start collecting, the higher your monthly payment will be. Your Social Security monthly payment is based on your earnings history and the age at which you begin collecting compared with your normal retirement age. This normal retirement age depends on the year you were born.

Year Born Normal Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67

Collecting Early
If you’re ready to exit the workforce, have other means of retirement income, and/or have a shorter life expectancy due to health or family history, you might choose to retire and begin collecting Social Security early. There’s no wrong choice here — it’s simply what fits your situation best.

Those choosing to collect before their normal retirement age face a reduction in monthly payments by as much as 30%. Spouses entitled to a benefit (typically 50% of what the worker earns) would also see a reduction in monthly payments if they chose to accept them early (more than 30% of the 50%, in some cases). What's more, while you don’t have to stop working as soon as you begin collecting Social Security, there are limits for how much you can earn if you aren’t of normal retirement age ($16,920 in 2017) and a penalty if you go over that limit. Click here to calculate your full retirement age and view a breakdown of how your payments would decrease depending on the age you begin collecting.

Delaying Collection
If you have other retirement income from a pension or substantial savings, and/or a family history of longevity, you may want to delay collecting payment until after normal retirement age, to increase the amount you receive monthly and ensure you don’t outlive your sources of income. For each month you delay retirement past your normal retirement age, your monthly Social Security benefit will increase between 0.29% per month for someone born in 1925, to 0.67% for someone born after 1942. In addition, you can keep on working even after you start collecting those delayed payments without any penalty. Click here to view your delayed retirement credit options.

It’s a Personal Choice
The sss.gov Web site has a wealth of resources to help you make an informed decision about retirement. But ultimately, the choice of when to start collecting is up to you. Keep in mind that Social Security represents just 38% of the average retiree’s income,² so it’s best to ensure you’re actively saving through a number of methods to give you a comfortable retirement. A financial advisor can help review your options. Contact us at (888) 354-6228 ext. 7599 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

¹Source: Towers Watson, October 2010.
²Source: Social Security Administration, "Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security," August 2011.

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