When it comes to Social Security payouts, the when can be as important as the how much.
Americans in retirement, or nearing it, have multiple options in considering when to start collecting Social Security benefits. The attractiveness of each option depends on a myriad of factors, including income need, health and career/retirement status.
Make no mistake; there’s an abundant amount of cash on the table with Social Security. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration Fact Sheet, approximately 62 million Americans took $955 billion in Social Security benefits in 2017.
But not all Americans will take Social Security at the same age and for good reasons. Here are three common scenarios for when Americans start withdrawing money.
Scenario 1 (age 62): Starting Social Security payouts at 62 years old makes sense for someone who is no longer working and has limited retirement resources. That person, like many Americans, may not have a traditional pension, and his or her 401(k) may not be sufficient to provide for retirement needs. Consequently, for Americans who have few options for gaining paid employment, starting Social Security at age 62 is often necessary to make ends meet.
Scenario 2 (full retirement age): There is a strong financial argument for waiting until full retirement age (currently age 66) to take Social Security benefits. Full retirement age rises gradually for those born from 1955 to 1959, and it is age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. If you were eligible to receive $750 a month at age 62 (the year recipients are initially eligible to collect Social Security) but wait until your full retirement age of age 66, you would receive $1,000 a month. Under the same scenario, someone who begins collecting at age 62 would receive $3,000 less each year than the person who waits until age 66. But the person who began collecting early would have received $36,000 in benefits by the time he or she reached full retirement age.
Scenario 3 (age 70): Delaying Social Security until age 70 makes sense for individuals who plan to keep working until then or have resources they can utilize in their early retirement years. Recipients should know that for each year they delay retirement (up until age 70), their Social Security payments would increase.
The benefit grows over the years before Americans start collecting Social Security, and if they wait, they get a small additional bonus, since a portion of the larger Social Security payment is not taxed when people start receiving the benefit. Additionally, for married couples, the larger benefit could serve as an inflation-adjusted income stream for the rest of their lives.
Make sure to consult with a financial professional before making a final decision. Each financial situation is unique, and a trained money management professional can help individuals determine the best time to begin taking Social Security payments.