formats

When should I start collecting Social Security benefits?

Q: I am thinking about taking early retirement, my company is offering a generous buy out option. I am over 62 years of age, my understanding is I could apply for Social Security benefits. A few people are telling me I should wait until full retirement age to collect since my benefit would be reduced. How do I decide what is right for me?

A: You have a lot to process all at once. Don’t make a hasty decision without closely looking at all of your options. Try to separate early retirement from collecting Social Security. Once you’ve done your homework then you may determine if they will go hand in hand.

Your dilemma is trying to figure out what the “best age” is to start collecting Social Security benefits. If you start the benefit before your full retirement age your benefit would be reduced. If you delay collecting, the benefit increases each year after age sixty two. In the event you wait to claim until after your full retirement age an additional 8% monthly bonus is added to your income for each year you wait (until age 70). With this said it seems to make sense to delay collection as long as possible if you can. It may not be as straightforward as it sounds. Surprisingly about 60% of eligible workers start taking early Social Security benefits.

There are several points for you to ponder. First of all be realistic about whether you really need the benefit now or can you financially afford to wait. You should take a look at what your expenses will be if you retire. Will you have enough income to live on without Social Security? What other reliable income streams will you have…pensions, savings, and/or investments? If you are considering taking another job (full or part time) it is important to understand there are limitations on how much you can earn without your benefit being reduced. In 2019 the earnings limit is $17,640.

If you take early Social Security benefits will you live long enough to offset the reduction? Life expectancy is not written in stone so you need to think about your current health condition and perhaps consider how long some of your immediate relatives have lived. For someone who is in poor health it most likely would be in their best interest to take early benefits because they may not have the luxury of a long life.

To wait or not to wait is the question? It may be smart to consult a financial planner to get additional advice and have an expert to look over all your options.

 

Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to ageinfo@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.