As a single person, you have options when it comes to claiming your Social Security retirement benefit. For example, you can begin collecting your benefit as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Many workers file for their benefits as soon as they become eligible at 62 – but is that the right decision for you? Your decision can have a permanent impact on your monthly Social Security benefit and on the cumulative benefits you receive over your lifetime.
Timing is a key variable for everyone. Collecting benefits early, before you’ve reached your full retirement age, permanently reduces your monthly benefit – by up to 30%, depending on when you were born and when you claim benefits.
Of course, there may be good reasons for filing before your full retirement age. Health concerns, a reduced life expectancy and financial need are all important considerations.
As the chart below shows, your full retirement age is determined by the year you were born.
It’s a big decision
As a single person, you shoulder all the responsibility – for yourself.
The decisions you make can have a lasting impact on your future. This is especially true for life’s “big” decisions, such as when – and how – to claim your Social Security retirement benefit.
Social Security retirement benefits are one of the few sources of retirement income that are guaranteed to last for as long as you live. So before making a decision about this important benefit, it’s a good idea to learn about the filing options that may be available to you.
In the example below, we’ll look at benefits for one hypothetical single – Mark, age 62. We’ll see how a subtle difference in filing strategy can make a significant difference in benefit results.
At 62, Mark is a healthy, active professional. As a single person living on one income, Mark is concerned about maximizing his monthly cash flow when his regular paychecks stop in retirement. Mark has already created his personal “My Social Security” page on www.socialsecurity.gov. Mark knows that if he begins receiving his Social Security retirement benefit before reaching his full retirement age of 66, his monthly benefit amount will be reduced.
Mark has also learned that delayed retirement credits will increase his full retirement age benefit by 8% for every year beyond his full retirement age that he delays collecting his benefit – up until age 70. That could mean an increase of as much as 32% in his monthly benefit amount.
Armed with this knowledge, Mark feels confident that he can continue working for 8 more years and delay collecting his benefit until age 70. Let’s look at two different ways that Mark can execute his strategy.
Remember…it’s your Social Security and your decision
Your first step on the way to making an informed Social Security filing decision should be to visit the Social Security Administration website at www.socialsecurity.gov. This site provides a wealth of information and allows you to create your personal “My Social Security” Web page. Once you’ve created your page, you can securely view your earnings history and estimated Social Security retirement benefit at different ages.
Just remember that there are many factors that can affect the amount of your Social Security retirement benefit. Your marital status, the age when you begin collecting benefits and your earnings history are just some of the considerations that the Social Security Administration will use to determine your benefit.
1 Delayed retirement credits may accrue for each year beyond your full retirement age that you delay taking your individual benefit. People born in 1943 or later can earn delayed retirement credits equal to 8% of their full retirement age benefit, which can increase monthly benefit amounts up to 32%. Delayed retirement benefits no longer accrue after age 70.
Social Security Administration’s Program Policy Information Site, Program Operations Manual System (POMS), GN 02409.130 Voluntary Suspension Reinstatement.
Take the guesswork out of your Social Security filing decision.
Your Social Security retirement benefit is too important for guesswork. Learn more about your retirement benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov or contact your local Social Security office.
One of the most important steps you can take is to set up your own “My Social Security” page on www.socialsecurity.gov. This is an easy and secure way to view your estimated benefits and earnings history. The Social Security Administration will use this information when it calculates your benefit, so be sure that it accurately reflects your work history.
We’re here to help.
Once you and your spouse have set up your individual Social Security pages, your financial professional can help you explore different filing strategies. With this information, you will be better able to make an informed Social Security filing decision.