You can claim Social Security benefits at any time between the ages of 62 and 70. Your claiming age affects the amount of money you receive each month. And since the size of your check changes based on when you receive your first payment, your choice of when benefits start can affect your earnings for life.
It can be hard to decide if it’s better to claim Social Security as soon as possible, which would mean you get more checks than are late but relegate you to smaller payments, or if you have to delay to earn larger monthly payments. even if that means getting fewer checks in your lifetime.
But while this choice can be complicated, there are two circumstances in which a delayed claim will definitely not work.
1. If you claim spousal benefits after full retirement age
If your spouse earned more than you or if you didn’t earn enough on your own to receive Social Security retirement benefits, you may decide that claiming spousal benefits is the way to go. These provide you with Social Security income worth up to 50% of the primary earner’s standard benefit.
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If you plan to receive spousal benefits, you can increase the amount of money you receive by waiting until your own full retirement age (FRA) to claim them. FRA is between 66 years and four months and 67 years. A claim made before that date results in a reduction in benefits because you start your checks earlier than expected.
But while Social Security retirement benefits continue to increase after the FRA until age 70, spousal benefits do not. You can’t increase your benefit if you wait past full retirement age, so there’s absolutely no reason to do so. By delaying it, you would simply be losing revenue and not receiving larger checks later in exchange for doing so.
2. If you die before reaching the break-even point
Waiting beyond the age of 62 to obtain Social Security increases your monthly benefit. But because you’re delaying your claim for benefits, you’re losing any income that could have come from the checks you opted out of.
The reason people do this is that they are gambling that they will end up with more money later on once they finally start taking their profits. Social Security checks increase for every month you delay them beyond the age 62so retirees who postpone their claim for benefits expect to receive as many larger checks as cover the lost funds and then continue to receive additional money on top of that.
Unfortunately, this requires that you live long enough to receive a sufficient number of large payments. If you pass away too soon, you will have given up a lot of income you could have received with nothing to show for it. And this can leave you with much less money. If you delay your claim until age 70, you will have lost all the income you would have been entitled to for the last eight years. If he died at age 71, he would be nowhere near compensating for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he would have received over the years had he not postponed his claim for benefits.
As these two examples show, a delayed Social Security claim isn’t always the best option, and sometimes it can come at a cost. Be sure to think about this before deciding on the best age to apply for benefits to begin.
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