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Social Security Matters: Ask Rusty – Should I claim Social Security now or wait until I’m 70?

By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor, Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: I’m currently 67 years old and still working full time. I took a big financial hit in 2008, which is why I’m still working, and I expect to continue working until I’m 70. My question is: should I take Social Security now, bank it until I’m 70, and then pay it out to myself upon retirement? Or would it be better to hold off until I’m 70 to claim. Longevity of about 85 seems to run in my family. Signed: Working Senior

Dear Working Senior: I’m afraid there’s no simple answer to your question, but I’ll give you some points to ponder.

If you don’t need the money right now, and you expect to enjoy at least average longevity (about 85 for a man your current age), then waiting until you’re 70 will give you the maximum monthly benefit and the most in cumulative lifetime Social Security benefits if you meet average longevity. And if you live beyond the average, your cumulative lifetime benefits will be correspondingly more. Since you’ve already delayed past your full retirement age (66) you are already earning delayed retirement credits (DRCs) at the rate of 8% for each full year you delay (the maximum Social Security benefit is reached at age 70).

Can you do better than an 8% annual increase by claiming now and saving or investing the money? That would be the main point to evaluate, and only you know your investment options. But you should also consider that – if you should die before your wife and she has reached her full retirement age – your wife will get 100% of the benefit you are receiving at your death. If you claim earlier (e.g., now), your wife will get that earlier smaller amount as your widow. Compare that to what she’ll get by you waiting until age 70 to claim, when your benefit will be about 24% more than it is now. Again, something for you to consider.

If you claim at age 70 you will have collected about the same amount of money at age 82 as if you had claimed now. That is your “breakeven” point, which is where your expected longevity comes into play. If you think you will beat the average and you do, you’ll collect much more in total lifetime Social Security benefits by waiting until you are 70 to claim. Of course, no one knows how long they will live, but if your family history suggests a long life and you’re in good health now, delaying is usually a prudent choice. That is, however, a decision only you can make.

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