Determining when to begin claiming Social Security benefits is a big decision, and the age you file will affect your monthly benefit amount for the rest of your life.
Age 62 is the most popular age to file, according to a 2020 survey from the Bipartisan Policy Center, with roughly 35% of men and nearly 40% of women claiming at this age. However, you can also delay Social Security past age 62 to earn a bump in benefits.
The age you should file will depend on your unique situation. There are a few reasons it pays to claim as early as possible at age 62, and one good reason to consider waiting.
Why consider claiming at 62?
1. You can get a jump-start on retirement
You don’t necessarily have to retire and claim benefits at the same time, but they often go hand-in-hand. When you claim Social Security as early as possible, then, you may be able to retire earlier as well.
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This could be a particularly smart move if you have reason to believe you may live a shorter-than-average lifespan. In this case, it may not make sense to delay Social Security, and claiming earlier can give you more time to enjoy your benefits.
2. Your lifetime benefits should be roughly the same regardless
In theory, you should receive roughly the same amount in total regardless of when you file. By claiming early, you’ll receive smaller payments, but more of them over a lifetime. If you delay, you’ll earn fewer checks, but each will be larger.
Assuming you live an average lifespan, it may not necessarily matter what age you claim. In that case, claiming earlier can give you more time in retirement without sacrificing the amount you receive in benefits over a lifetime.
3. You can reverse your decision
In general, your benefit amount is locked in for life once you file. However, if you claim Social Security early, you do have a couple of opportunities to reverse your decision if you change your mind.
Within the first 12 months of filing, you can withdraw your application. You will need to pay back all the benefits you’ve already received, but then you can file again later and collect larger checks.
You can also suspend your benefits once you reach your full retirement age (FRA). When you suspend benefits, you’ll stop receiving checks until you choose to begin claiming again, at which point you’ll earn higher payments.
Why you should think about waiting
1. You’ll receive substantially larger checks each month
The biggest reason to consider delaying benefits is that you can receive substantially more money each month. While your total lifetime benefits should be roughly the same regardless of when you file, your monthly income will be significantly higher when you delay.
Waiting until age 70 to begin claiming will result in a bonus of up to 32% each month on top of your full benefit amount. In some cases, that can add up to several hundred dollars more each month compared to what you’d receive by claiming early. If money is tight in retirement, delaying benefits can make it easier to pay the bills.
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer as to when you should claim Social Security, but it is important to understand how your age will affect your strategy. By understanding the risks and rewards of claiming early, it will be easier to decide whether it’s the right move for you.
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