Most people don’t resist the temptation to start collecting Social Security benefits as early as they are eligible, that is, at age 62. On the other hand, experts generally suggest that you wait as long as you can to commence benefits, even as late as age 70, the reason being that the increase in monthly payments between those starting at age 62 and age 70 is close to 75%. In other words, someone commencing benefits at age 62 at $750 per month would receive $1,000 per month if she waited until age 65 and $1,320 per month if she waited until age 70. The advice, of course, assumes that you have funds to live on in the intervening years or you will continue to work and that the state of your health is not a factor. Other factors that come into consideration are whether you are single or married, and, if you are married, whether you or your spouse was the higher earner.
The purpose of this article is to suggest that the answer is not simple and that the decision of when to start collecting benefits should not be made without a careful analysis of your personal situation.
Using the figures from above, for example, by waiting until age 70, the recipient would forego $72,000 in benefits between age 62 and 70, and it would require about 4 ½ years to reach the “break-even” point (the recipient would have to reach age 74 ½ before her decision to delay benefits paid off).
If a person is single, the “funds to live on” and “state of health” factors would figure heavily in the decision to delay collection.
If a person is married, however, things become much more complicated. This is because of age differences and differences between the spouses’ earnings, as well as the other factors, including the ability of the surviving spouse to receive a survivor’s benefit. There are strategies that should be considered, because the survivor has options that will be affected by what his or her spouse elected to do while alive. If you want your surviving spouse to have the highest possible payment, it is critical that your personal circumstances be analyzed by a qualified advisor, rather than making a hasty election of early benefits.