When it comes to collecting Social Security benefits, you’ve got a lot of options. As you formulate your retirement income plan, it’s important to understand and carefully weigh all of your options to help ensure that your retirement nest egg lasts long enough to support your desired retirement lifestyle.
When to Start Claiming Benefits
You can start claiming Social Security Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (also known as OASDI) when you turn 62 years old or wait all the way until age 70 to start collecting benefits. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to file for benefits, the more money you’ll receive each month. And the sooner you file for benefits, the less money you’ll receive each month for the rest of your life.
You will receive the full amount of your Social Security benefit (as listed on your most recent Social Security statement) if you wait until you reach your full retirement age (FRA) to claim benefits. Your FRA depends on when you were born:
- If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your FRA is 65.
- If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is 67.
- If you were born between 1938 and 1959, your FRA is between 65 and 67.
Filing for Social Security at age 62 will reduce your monthly benefit by about 8% per year compared to filing when you reach your FRA. Meanwhile, if you wait until you turn 70 to file for Social Security instead of filing at your FRA, you will earn delayed retirement credits of about 8% per year as compensation for waiting.
Changing Your Mind
What if you decide to start receiving Social Security before you reach FRA and then determine that you don’t really need the money yet after all? For example, maybe your living expenses in retirement are lower than you expected or you’re working a part-time job that’s bringing in some unexpected income.
Fortunately, you’re allowed a “do-over” in this situation. If you haven’t reached your FRA yet and have been receiving Social Security benefits for less than one year, you can file what’s known as a one-time withdrawal. When you do this, you will have to return the money you have collected so far back to the Social Security Administration. This includes any benefits your spouse or children may have received, regardless of whether they live with you or not.
If your spouse or children receive benefits based on your Social Security record, they will have to give written consent to your withdrawal. To perform a one-time withdrawal, you will fill out Social Security Form SSA-521 and explain why you want to withdraw your Social Security application. Then mail the form to your local Social Security office, which will let you know how much money you must repay.
Once your application is accepted and the benefits you’ve received have been repaid, you will be eligible for higher monthly benefit payments if you want until you reach your FRA to file again.
Suspending Your Benefits
If you have been receiving Social Security benefits for more than a year and have reached your FRA, you can get a do-over by suspending your Social Security benefits. You will then earn delayed retirement credits for each month that your benefits are suspended. Benefits can be restarted at any time up to age 70, at which point they will restart automatically (delayed retirement credits end at age 70 so there’s no benefit in suspending any longer than this).
Keep in mind that if you suspend your benefits, anyone else receiving benefits on your record will no longer receive these payments until your benefits are reinstated (with the exception of divorced spouses). Any payments you received on someone else’s record will also be suspended.
You can suspend your Social Security benefits by calling your local Social Security office and requesting the suspension over the phone, or you can request it in writing. The suspension will begin the month after you make the request.
Understand Your Options
The decisions you make about when to start claiming Social Security OASDI benefits could have a major impact on your financial security in retirement. A financial advisor can help you understand your options and make the right choices for your situation.
Please contact us if you have more questions about your Social Security options and the best distribution strategy for your situation.