Some people can’t wait to retire. Others don’t have much choice, as illness, unemployment, or other circumstances force them to stop working. And still others feel tempted to go ahead and claim Social Security while they’re still working. But before you make any big (and usually permanent) decisions, ask yourself these five questions.
What is my full retirement age? Social Security sets full retirement age between 66 and 67, depending upon your year of birth. This is the age at which you can claim your full scheduled benefits, as calculated by their formula based upon your earnings record.
What happens if I claim my benefits early? You aren’t required to wait until full retirement age to claim your benefits. You can actually file as early as age 62, but your checks will be permanently reduced (up to 30 percent). You need to know exactly what to expect before accepting a smaller monthly benefit.
What if I wait a bit longer? For those who want a larger monthly benefit check, we have good news. Waiting beyond full retirement age means your checks can grow by 8 percent per year, up to age 70. At that point, your benefits can’t get any larger, so you might as well file.
Can I work and claim my benefits? Maybe you’ve done the math, and you don’t mind accepting a smaller check before reaching full retirement age. There’s just one more thing to consider: If you work and earn income, your benefits will be reduced by one dollar for every two dollars you earn above a certain threshold until you reach the year of your full retirement age. That year, checks will be reduced by one dollar for every three dollars earned above the threshold.
And that threshold is fairly low. Social Security begins withholding from your checks once you reach an income of $19,560 (in 2022).
How will my spouse be affected if I claim my benefits? Spousal benefits are based upon the higher-earning spouse’s own benefit checks, so claiming yours early could also mean a smaller check for your spouse. And what if something happens to you? Claiming an earlier, smaller benefits check will also reduce the potential survivor’s benefits for your spouse.
These five questions can get you started toward making the decision that is right for your situation. But every situation is unique. Make an appointment to discuss your retirement plans in detail, and we can help you decide upon the right time to claim your Social Security benefits.
Disclaimer: Asset Protection Group is not affiliated with or endorsed by The Social Security Administration.