The best time to take Social Security is a personal decision based on your financial situation, health, lifestyle, family longevity and when you stop working. Social Security will provide you with the same total amount, if you live to the average life expectancy, regardless of when you take it. The full retirement age for most people is between 66 and 67. You can begin taking reduced benefits as early as 62 or you can wait and take an increased benefit as late as age 70. If you begin at 62 your benefit is reduced by about 30%, if you take Social Security after your full retirement date your benefit will increase 8% per year until age 70.
You will probably benefit from taking Social Security at full retirement or later. Unless you have a serious medical condition, there is a good chance you will live longer than the Social Security average life expectancy. Social Security life expectancy tables are based on 2010 data and lag what can be reasonably expected. They indicate a 65 year old male will live to around 84.3 and a 65 year old female will live to around 86.6. Taking Social Security later is like buying longevity insurance. It can provide you with more money later in life which can help put your mind at ease, if you are worried about out living your money.
If you are still working it can be especially detrimental to take Social Security before your full retirement age. In 2015 you will lose $1 for every $2 earned over $15,720. Once you reach full retirement age there is no limit to how much you can earn. However, taxation of your Social Security benefit is based on your overall earnings. If you take Social Security after you stop working a smaller portion of your benefit is likely to be taxable. Additionally, if you continue to work and delay Social Security you may be able to increase your total Social Security benefit. The Social Security Administration annually recalculates benefits for recipients who are still working.
The decision on when to take Social Security is significantly impacted by your marital status and your spouses expected benefit. If you have been married for at least ten years you have the option to take the greater of 50% of your spouse’s benefit or your full benefit. If you wait until your full retirement age you can start taking 50% of your spouse’s benefit, let your benefit grow, and switch back to your full benefit at age 70. If you take the spousal benefit prior to your full retirement age you cannot switch back to your own benefit at a later date. If you have been married for at least 10 years, and your spouse dies, you are eligible for the greater of your benefit or 100% of your spouse’s benefit.
More information about your Social Security benefit is available at www.ssa.gov.