Once you turn 62, you can claim Social Security retirement benefits. But is it a good idea to start your checkups as early as possible?
Ask yourself these three questions to decide.
1. How is your health?
If you claim Social Security at age 62, get as many checks as possible. However, your benefit will be much smaller than if you had been deferred, as your payment will go up each month and you will wait until age 70.
Those who skip checks after age 62 end up with higher monthly payments, while getting fewer checks overall. They will have to cash extra checks for a while to break even.
If you don’t exceed your life expectancy because of health problems, you won’t live long enough to make up for payments by waiting. So claiming Social Security at 62 could be your best option.
2. How does your choice affect your spouse?
If you are married, you should think about your spouse when you decide when to apply for Social Security.
Once you start your checkups, your partner will be eligible for spousal support. If your spouse didn’t qualify for Social Security because he didn’t work long enough, you may want to claim benefits at age 62 so your spouse can get payments as well (equivalent to 50% of your checks).
On the other hand, filing for benefits early and shrinking your checks will reduce your spouse’s survivor benefits. A surviving spouse gets the higher of the two payments the partners received. So, if you were the highest earner, waiting for your benefit increase would increase your spouse’s survivor benefit. That will expose your partner to fewer financial problems after your death.
3. What other income do you have?
Finally, you should think about other sources of income.
If you’re not getting anything from Social Security because you’re postponing your claim, you’ll have to rely more on savings. But you don’t want to deduct too much from your retirement accounts too soon. If you would have to make withdrawals that are too large to fund your lifestyle without Social Security, you should claim your benefits instead.
It doesn’t matter how old you are when you start checking your checks, Social Security alone isn’t enough for a comfortable retirement. So when you apply for benefits, make sure you have enough money from other sources to supplement them.