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Social Security: When Is the Best Time To Claim if You Truly Don’t Need the Money?

Geber86 / iStock.com
Geber86 / iStock.com

Social Security benefits are supposed to supplement your retirement income rather than be a major source of it, but for many Americans that’s not the case.

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Research conducted last decade by the Social Security Administration found that about four in 10 retirees depended on Social Security for half their income, according to an April 2023 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Roughly one in seven retirees depended on Social Security for at least 90% of their income.

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If you’re among the fortunate retirees with enough money saved up that you don’t need Social Security to help pay the bills, then you might wonder when you should claim your benefits. From a purely financial standpoint, you should wait as long as possible because the longer you wait, the higher your monthly payment.

Currently, that means waiting until age 70 to file for benefits. This is the age at which your benefits top out and you no longer gain a financial advantage by waiting to file. The earliest age you can file is 62. For every year you wait to file beyond that, your monthly payment goes up.

When you reach full retirement age — either 66 or 67, depending on your birth year — you get the full benefits you are owed. Waiting beyond the FRA ensures an even higher benefit.

As previously reported by GOBankingRates, here are some of the advantages of waiting to claim Social Security benefits:

  1. Delaying benefits to age 70 instead of 62 increases monthly benefits by 77% in inflation-adjusted terms, according to a paper in the “Journal of Financial Planning” by Wade Pfau and Steve Parrish.

  2. Claiming benefits as early as age 62 results in lifetime benefits that are about 30% less than what they’d be at full retirement age. Claiming at full retirement age gives you 100% of your earned benefit while waiting until age 70 gives you 124% of what you’d get at full retirement age.

  3. Waiting until age 70 to claim Social Security would boost recipients’ lifetime discretionary spending by a median of $182,370 in today’s dollars, according to a study conducted by David Altig of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University and Victor Yifan Ye, a research scientist at Opendoor Technologies.

  4. An analysis from Fidelity ran the numbers on a hypothetical situation involving a person with typical career earnings who turned 62 in 2022. If the person waits until age 67 to collect Social Security, they will receive about $2,000 a month. However, if they begin taking benefits at age 62, they will only receive $1,400 a month. If the person starts collecting at age 67 and lives until age 90, they will have received about $600,000 in Social Security benefits during the course of their retirement, spread over 23 years. If they started collecting at age 62, their total payout over 28 years would be about $470,400 — a difference of nearly $130,000. The difference would be even bigger if they waited until age 70 to collect.

Of course, if you don’t need the money, it might not be that important to squeeze every last dime out of Social Security. As Motley Fool reported, you might decide to file early so you can use your benefits for your own personal purposes. For example, if you or a loved one have an expensive medical condition, then filing early can give you access to money to help ease the cost.+

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Social Security: No Matter Your Age, Do Not Claim Benefits Until You Reach This Milestone

Even if that’s not the case, you might decide to file early so you can help family or friends who are struggling financially, invest the money so it will grow faster, pay for a family member’s college education, or donate your Social Security checks to your favorite charities.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Social Security: When Is the Best Time To Claim if You Truly Don’t Need the Money?