Three reasons to file early for Social Security
Originally written in Aspire, Spring 2020
Edited for clarity and brevity by Gleba & Associates
Tell us if you’ve heard this before: File for Social Security as late as possible. Sound familiar? That’s because conventional wisdom tells us that waiting at least until full retirement age will net a larger monthly payout than filing as soon as eligibility starts at age 62. Waiting even longer means an 8% increase in monthly benefits for every year delayed between full retirement age and age 70 – a potential 8% to 32% increase (a pretty impressive “rate of return” that’s hard to beat).
This assumes, of course, good health and an income and/or retirement nest egg that makes waiting possible.
While the math and logic are sound, there’s a reason this is a general rule. For the majority of applicants in good health, waiting past full retirement age to file makes a lot of sense financially. But, it doesn’t apply in every situation. If you are unsure of when to claim Social Security benefits, it’s essential to contact us at Gleba & Associates to create plans that maximize this all-important source of recurring, inflation-adjusted and – this is key – guaranteed income.
The elderly rely on Social Security for 33% of their total income.
Early Bird Gets the Worm: Reasons to File Early
If any of these scenarios apply to an individual, it would be worth it to consider filing sooner rather than later.
FOR THE MONEY
This is obvious, perhaps, but important nonetheless. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. Someone may have to leave their job unexpectedly for health reasons; they may get burned out, or a business deal may not go as well as they hoped and they may find themselves in debt. They may also find themselves wanting – or needing – to spend more time with loved ones. If they don’t have enough savings to retire sooner than planned, they may want to think about claiming Social Security benefits early.
Since Social Security offers a consistent source of income, it can make for a great backup plan. But it’s important to really do the math and budget accordingly because it’s unlikely to be a princely sum. Monthly benefits averaged $1,461 in 2019, or about $17,500 a year. The maximum benefit at full retirement age is $2,861, about $34,000 a year.
Now, some people who have done a good job of saving still like having extra income to fund more of their wants in early retirement, perhaps preferring to let dedicated retirement savings accounts continue to grow. The extra income can enhance the so-called “go-go” years, a period where you can expect to have the most time and energy when they first enter retirement.
37% of retirees had to stop working sooner than expected
FOR THEIR HEALTH
If an individual lives to the average life expectancy, they’ll receive approximately the same amount over their lifetime, regardless of whether they start collecting benefits sooner or later. But the math only works out if they live to their late 70s, the current average American life expectancy. If you have a significant health event or family history of illness, filing early could be a smart option.
FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
Married couples who are the lower-earning partner will find that their lifetime benefits will also be lower. In cases like this, you can work with them to maximize their total household benefits, which could involve filing earlier, and the higher-earning spouse delaying their more substantial benefits in order to get that 8% credit for each year between full retirement age and age 70. This strategy could maximize benefits for married couples and is also likely to secure higher survivor benefits when the time comes.
WEIGHING THE FACTORS
As with many financial decisions, the best Social Security claiming strategies need to account for each individual’s personal situation – their health, savings, marital status, etc. You’ll also do well to remember that you generally are not eligible for Medicare until 65, so if you are not covered by an employer, you may need to purchase your own health insurance coverage until Medicare kicks in. Expert advice could be invaluable here since this decision affects a lifetime income stream.