IN YOUR PRIME: What to know before claiming Social Security

Hardworking adults spend years striving to achieve their professional goals. Along the way, planning for retirement is a way to ensure all that hard work pays off when the time comes to call it a career.

In the United States, men and women nearing retirement age may be thinking about when they should begin collecting their Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security is a social insurance program instituted by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935. The program consists of retirement, disability and survivor benefits, and workers in the United States contribute to Social Security each week.

The decision about when to claim Social Security retirement benefits is one all those who have contributed to the program must eventually make. In recognition of the difficulty of that decision, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers the following tips to people wondering when they should begin collecting their Social Security benefits.

  • Confirm your full retirement age. Full retirement age refers to the age at which people can begin collecting their full benefits. Depending on the year you were born, you can begin collecting your full benefit at age 66 or 67. Claiming your benefit before you reach full retirement age will lead to a permanent decrease in your monthly benefits. Conversely, claiming after you reach full retirement age will lead to a permanent increase in your monthly benefits. Since the stakes are so considerable, it’s vital for adults to confirm their full retirement age before they claim their benefits.
  • Delay claiming if you can. The CFPB notes that you can expect to get an additional 5 to 8 percent in monthly benefits for every year you wait to claim your Social Security benefits after age 62, maxing out at age 70. If you can afford to do so, wait to claim your full benefit until age 70, as doing so can translate to a benefit that’s 32 percent higher than it would have been had you claimed your benefit at age 62.
  • Budget for retirement. Short- and long-term budgeting for retirement can help you assess how much money you will need to cover your expenses when you stop working. This step can help you understand how much a reduced or increased Social Security benefit will affect your bottom line in retirement.
  • Continue working. Remaining in the workforce full-time or even part-time can have a considerable impact on the size of your Social Security benefit. The CFPB notes that continuing to work for one or two additional years can replace low- or no-income earnings from your earnings record, thereby increasing your benefit.
  • Consider the long-term needs of your spouse. Surviving spouses receive the higher of the two spouses’ benefits. So it makes sense for the higher earning spouse to wait to collect his or her benefit until he or she reaches full retirement age.

The decision about when to collect your Social Security benefit is complex. Discussing your options with your spouse and financial advisor can help you make the most informed decision.

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