When you apply for Social Security, you are claiming your monthly benefits from having worked and paid taxes as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. These payments can make up a significant portion of your budget each month, so it is important to plan ahead in order to maximize your benefits.
You should time your Social Security claim for when it best suits your financial goals. For many people, that means waiting to claim your benefits until the designated full retirement age or even up until age 70. The same solution will not work for everyone. Speak with a financial advisor to plan for your retirement.
You can first apply for your benefits when you reach age 62. This would be considered early retirement. To apply for your benefits, you can go to the Social Security website, visit your local Social Security office, or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778).
Signing up when you are 62 will result in about a 30% lower benefit than you are entitled to receive. This is because Social Security reduces your benefit by 5/9 of one percent for the first 36 months you claim early, and 5/12 of one percent for each month beyond 36.
For married couples, the lower wage earner could begin to accept their benefits when they are first eligible, at age 62. Individuals who would rely more heavily on their benefits should wait until their full retirement age.
Full Retirement Age
Social Security defines your full retirement age depending on your birth year. If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67. That means that once you reach age 67, you can claim your full Social Security benefit each month.
Full retirement also gives you the benefit of not having to limit your income. Before you reach full retirement age, income above $18,960 will reduce your benefit by $1 for every $2 you earn in 2021. If you reach full retirement age during 2021, your income above $50,520 will reduce your benefit by $1 for every $3 you earn.
Delay Applying Until 70
One clear way to maximize your benefits is to wait to apply at the maximum age. For each year you delay applying for your benefits from full retirement age up until age 70, your benefits will increase by around 8%. Over time, this adds up to significantly increase your take-home pay.
People in good health could comfortably wait until age 70 to apply for their benefits, with the advantage of extra money in their account each month for the remainder of their lifetime. High-wage earners could also do well for their families by waiting to apply for their benefits. Married couples may be able to secure higher survivor benefits for the remaining partner if the higher earner chooses to wait to apply for their Social Security benefits until age 70.
For all of your Social Security questions, speak with an advisor from the Federal Employee Service Association.