Ask the CFP® – When should I take Social Security?

Hello! This month’s Ask the CFP ® question is “When should I begin taking Social Security?”  This is a question we hear often, and the answer is…it depends.

You can begin drawing Social Security benefits anytime between the ages of 62 and 70. However, depending on your overall wealth, the timing can make a significant difference in your lifetime retirement income.  

For anyone born after 1960, 67 is considered full retirement age. Your benefits will either be reduced, if you begin taking social security before the age of 67, or enhanced if you wait until after. If you were born before 1960, your full retirement age is between 66 and 67, and similar rules apply.  

Let’s say your full retirement age is 67, and you begin taking social security at the age of 62 – that would reduce your benefit by 30%. On the other hand, for each year you wait beyond the age of 67, you receive an extra 8% in benefits. 

Here’s an example… 

Imagine a married couple decides to retire at age 62. The wife was a corporate executive and the husband was a freelance graphic designer. Her Social Security benefit is much larger than his because of their earnings history.  

If they both take their Social Security beginning at age 62, they’ll have a reduced benefit for the rest of their lives. Of course, they know they can delay their benefits, but they want to start enjoying the income now. 

In this scenario, they might decide to file for the husband’s benefits at age 62 and delay the wife’s benefits until she turns 70. This way they can maximize her benefits, while supplementing their income with the husband’s social security immediately. If the wife were to pass away at age 72, the husband would be able to take over his late spouse’s larger benefit for the rest of his life. This strategy would avoid an early penalty on the wife’s benefit and increase the benefit by 24% for waiting until age 70.  

With inflation at highs not seen since the early ‘80s, it’s important to also remember that Social Security adjusts with inflation. If you collect Social Security for 20 or 30 years, the cost-of-living adjustment can grow your benefit significantly. Without that adjustment, your Social Security benefit would be eroded over time due to inflation. It would be like working at a company for 20 years without ever receiving a raise! But because of this cost-of-living feature, delaying Social Security for a higher benefit could also offer larger inflation adjustments in dollar terms.  

Deciding when to retire is a deeply personal decision that depends on many factors such as your overall assets, your health, and your marital status – whether you are married, can claim as a divorced spouse, or are a widow or widower. A healthy person who expects to live into their 90s may benefit from delaying Social Security until age 70, while someone with poor health may need to draw Social Security as soon as possible at age 62.  

Overall, we advise considering multiple scenarios and factors before you decide when to take your Social Security benefits. We’re here to help as questions arise.    

If you have a question about this topic or have a suggestion for a future Ask the CFP ® video, please send it to Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next month. 

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