Three Key Questions to Answer Before Taking Social Security

Social Security is a critical component of the retirement financial strategy for many Americans, so before you begin taking it, you should consider three important questions. The answers may affect whether you make the most of this retirement income source.

When to Start?

You have the choice of 1) starting benefits at age 62, 2) claiming them at your full retirement age, or 3) delaying payments until age 70. If you claim early, you can expect to receive an amount lower than what you would have earned at full retirement. If you wait until age 70, you can expect to receive an even higher benefit than if you had begun receiving payments at your full retirement age. The decision of when to begin taking benefits may hinge on whether you need the income now or can wait, and whether you think your lifespan will be shorter or longer than the average American.

Should I Continue to Work?

Work provides income, personal satisfaction, and may increase your Social Security benefits. However, if you begin taking benefits prior to your full retirement age and continue to work, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $2 in earnings above the prevailing annual limit ($15,720 in 2016). 1 If you work during the year in which you attain full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 in earnings over a different annual limit ($41,880 in 2016) until the month you reach full retirement age. After you attain your full retirement age, earned income no longer reduces benefit payments. 2

How Can I Maximize My Benefit?

The easiest way to maximize your monthly Social Security benefit is to simply wait until you turn age 70 before receiving payments.
Social Security Administration, 2016
Social Security Administration, 2016

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