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Should You Delay Your Social Security Benefits?

Should You Delay Your Social Security Benefits?

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There was an interesting comment from a reader, ToughMoneyLove, regarding the benefit of delaying your retirement because the Social Security Administration gives you 8% bump in benefits each year. Here’s that part of the comment:

For your Mom, she will get an 8% bump in benefits for each year she delays taking SS until age 70. Definitely consider that. Where else can you get a guaranteed 8% return?

Delaying Your Social Security Benefits is BAD

This may look good at first, but while you are delaying your Social Security benefits, you are receiving nothing. So you are giving up a whole year worth of Social Security income for an 8% increase next year. Let’s illustrate the point with this table:

Should You Delay Your Social Security Benefits? 1

If I stop working at 62, I get the reduced benefits of $18,156 for the rest of my life. That may sounds like a bad deal, but if I wait until my full retirement age (67 years old), it would take me 12 more years (to the age of 78) to catch up in the total Social Security benefits received. If I do not live to 78, I lose. The issue is even more pronounced if I wait until 70 — I would have to live to 82 to beat the system. With the average lifespan of American male being about 75, I am definitely NOT doing myself a favor by waiting.

Should I Start My Social Security Benefits Early If I Am Working?

If you receive benefits before reaching your full retirement age, your benefit amount will be reduced. Specifically,

  • In the years before you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 you earn above the limit ($13,560 in 2008)
  • In the year you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $3 you earn above the annual limit ($36,120 in 2008)
  • After your full retirement age, your benefits will not be reduced no matter how much you earn.

Let’s assume that we only get 50% benefits between 62-66 and 67% at 67, this is what the table will look like:

Should You Delay Your Social Security Benefits? 2

In this case, it doesn’t matter if we collect at 67 or 70 because the scenario stays the same as above. However, these penalties make early retirement less attractive if you continue to work. In the example above, it you’re planning to work past 62, it may be worthwhile to wait until full retirement age. Once you live past 72 years old, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Key Counterpoints From Comments Below

  • You may want to delay taking your benefits so that your surviving spouse can enjoy a larger monthly payment.  This is even more important if your spouse is a younger female (since women live longer than men). — ToughMoneyLove
  • You need to understand the whole retirement funding picture because there are some advantages in drawing from your 401(k) and IRA early on, while delaying your Social Security benefits. — ToughMoneyLove
  • Life expectancy varies by when you were born and how old you currently are, so this dynamic needs to be considered carefully into the equation. — MITBeta
  • You may want to start collecting early if you have spouse and young children that are eligible for dependent care. — Zeke

For more information, please visit the Social Security Administration web site.

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Steve
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Steve

I saw an interesting article last week referring to something I had never heard of. Say you start taking benefits at 62 because your family has a history of early deaths and you want to make sure you get something before you expect you might die. If by chance you happen to be totally healthy 5 or 10 years later, you can actually pay back all the money you collected, and then begin drawing at the higher rate as if you had not started collecting at age 62. Of course that requires having a large chunk of cash laying around,… Read more »

Mr. ToughMoneyLove
Guest

Pinyo: One other factor to consider is whether you have a spouse who will be dependent on your benefitt. If she outlives you her survivor benefit will be increased also if you wait. My wife is 4 years younger and her own benefit will be very small. She would very much appreciate having her survivor benefit be as large as possible after I leave this earth. Anyway, keep this in mind when you are considering an early benefit. The second other factor to consider is consumption smoothing. If your goal is to maintain a steady standard of living in retirement,… Read more »

MITBeta
Guest

The 75 average age statistic is from birth. If you are already 60, your life expectancy becomes 81. If you are already 70, your life expectancy becomes 84, etc. Given this information, it is to your advantage to delay Social Security benefits as long as possible.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Additionally, age is not the only factor to consider when deciding when to claim Social Security. Retirees should also consider whether or not they intend to work, which can temporarily reduce benefits and increase taxes if their earnings are too high, and review their spouse’s plans before collecting their due.

Greener Pastures
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Greener Pastures

I agree, makes no sense to delay at all. I figured out I had to live until 85 to break even. Sheesh. Why don’t they just tell you that? Even the government is sneaky.

Give me the money.

ctreit
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ctreit

Interesting and thorough post, but as MITBeta says life expectancy is the wild card. Even when you have lived to 75 – the average life expectancy at birth for all American males – you still have a life expectancy of 84. At 84 your life expectancy gets extended to 88 and so forth. As all things in personal finance, this issue depends on a person’s individual situation.

plonkee
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plonkee

This sort of thing is actuarially adjusted for so that there’s no advantage either way (assuming that you don’t know your own lifespan).

For example, whilst the average male lifespan may be 75, I bet that the typical 70 year old male has a remaining lifespan of 12 years. (i.e. if you make it to 70, on average you’ll make it to 82).

You can really only make a decision that is likely to benefit you if you know that you are likely to live longer/shorter than average.

terry
Guest
terry

# In the years before you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 you earn above the limit ($13,560 in 2008)
# In the year you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $3 you earn above the annual limit ($36,120 in 2008)

What is the difference between “the limit” and “the annual limit?

Is “the limit” not an annual limit?

Dave
Guest
Dave

Scott Burns in his latest book “Spend ‘Till The End” makes the arguement that if you spend down your 401(k) money first in your 60s and then take full Social Security when you are 70, instead of vice versa, you’ll have more money and more secure money. Social Security is taxed differently than 401(k) and IRA withdrawals so even if you spend every dime of your 401(k)/IRA at 70, you’ll pay less taxes which leads to a greater standard of living. Plus, you are trading in the whims of the stock and bond markets for the safety of Social Security… Read more »

Mrs. Micah
Guest

My mom will probably take hers early, but only because she’s got a very short life expectancy. Her feeling is “might as well.” But otherwise I think she and dad would have put them off for a few years at least. Dad probably will.

terry
Guest
terry

@Terry — They are the same. Sorry.

Um, $13,560 and $36,120 are definitely NOT the same. (grin)

That is why I asked the question.

Zeke
Guest
Zeke

I had an additional consideration. At age 65 my children were ages 11 and 9. This meant that SS payments for me also brought monthly checks for the daughters. Since theirs would end at age 18, a five year delay would cut their eligibility to two years and four years respectively. I chose to take the 87% increase as early as possible.

vh
Guest

What if you can’t afford to quit at 62? Boy, I sure would like to…but it ain’t a-gunna happen. Meanwhile, I earn enough that Social Security payments would be entirely confiscated. I blogged on this topic a week or two ago, to report the discovery that you can collect before your “full” retirement age (LOL! far as I’m concerned, that arrived at about age 42…but the gummint doesn’t see it that way!), invest the money and make some change on it, and then at age 66 or 70 turn it back to the government, get your taxes fully refunded, and… Read more »

W. W. Paddock
Guest
W. W. Paddock

My husband will be 62 this October the 10th, 2008. If he delays taking SS at 62, can he decide to start drawing social security at 63 or 64 or any other age that he chooses between 62 and 661/2?

Also, if he decides to starting drawing his social security at 62, how much additional yearly income would he be allowed to make in addition to his social security without being penalized?

I hope those questions make sense to you? I would really appreciate an answer.

Zeke
Guest
Zeke

@W.W.Paddock — You can get your answers directly from the horse’s mouth by going to http://www.ssa.gov (notice that it is .gov and not .com). You will find many many issues covered there.

lwe
Guest
lwe

I’m wondering about my situation. I am 65 and can get full social security without a reduction, but my salary is high and I hope to keep working until I’m 70. On the one hand, it seems like starting SS is good because I can bank the whole check.

But what about taxes? The additional income would put me in that “over 250K a year”, which may end up taking a huge chunk of that SS check.

Your tables don’t take that into account.

lwe
Guest
lwe

Being a blogger didn’t stop you from discussing it with others. If I was rich, I
WOULD retire. Anyway, my phone appointment with SS was today, and I
told them I would try to wait till I’m 70. By the way, my financial planner just
finds ways to throw my money away in bad investments. 🙁

Zeke
Guest
Zeke

Gosh, Iwe, if you don’t feel “rich” in the neighborhood of 250K, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Should You Delay Your Social Security Benefits?

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 2 min
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