Retirees become eligible to claim benefits at age 62, but the timing of when you claim can drastically impact your benefit amount.
This leaves many to wonder, “When’s the most appropriate time to claim Social Security?”
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. You need to weigh the available options against your own unique set of financial needs and circumstances.
The good news? Educating yourself and seeking professional guidance can help you make an informed decision that you feel confident about.
Identifying Your Expected Benefit
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides statements detailing your expected monthly retirement benefit if you were to claim at full retirement age (FRA), age 62 or age 70. The statements also include other estimated benefits, your earnings record and additional key facts.
How Your Benefit is Calculated
Your benefits are based on your top 35 years of earnings, adjusted to account for changes in wages from the year they were earned. The SSA then applies a formula to those figures to arrive at your specific benefit amount at FRA, also referred to as your primary insurance amount (PIA).
The Impact of When You Claim on Your Benefit
There are three options for when to claim your benefits:
1. Claim early - you can begin claiming your benefits as early as age 62, but your benefits will be permanently reduced. For example, for those born between 1943-1954, claiming at age 62 results in an approximately 25% reduction in your benefit versus claiming at your FRA of 66.
2. Wait to claim until FRA - FRA is when you become entitled to 100% of your benefits. Your full retirement age for purposes of Social Security is based on the year you were born.
66 + 2 months for every year after 1954 until 1960
1960 and later
3. Delay your claim - You can delay claiming your benefits until the maximum age 70 and doing so will increase your benefits for the remainder of your life. For example, for those born between 1943-1954, claiming at age 70 results in an additional 8% delayed retirement credit each year, or in total, 32% increase in your benefit versus claiming at your FRA of 66.
Further, cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA) begin giving your potential benefit a boost at age 62 - and that boost will continue to compound every year you delay making your claim.
It’s important to note that the changing benefit amounts are not designed to punish or reward. Rather, SSA’s actuaries try to set benefits so that if you live out your life expectancy precisely, you’ll receive approximately the same amount from the program whether you start receiving your benefits at age 62, age 70, or anywhere in between.
Other Key Factors to Consider
The decision of whether or not to delay your claim for Social Security benefits will depend on a variety of factors such as:
- Are you still working and younger than your FRA? If so, your benefit could be temporarily reduced.
- Do you have alternative sources of income (i.e., 401(k)s, IRAs, pensions, etc.) to draw upon in the interim?
- In the case of a married couple, are you hoping to maximize your survivors benefits? If so, you’ll want to carefully time when you and your spouse claim to help maximize your total benefits.
- Based on your health and expected longevity, do you think you’ll live long enough to benefit from bigger benefits later in life?
Contact Us Today
A PNC Investments Financial Advisor can help you navigate the decisions leading up to retirement and create a personalized retirement income plan for you. Call 855-PNC-INVEST or stop by a local branch.