How do I know what is the right time for me and my husband to take social security retirement benefits?

February 25, 2013

Advisor answers

Unfortunately, there are a tremendous number of variables when it comes to filing for Social Security benefits. Without knowing your personal specifics, I can't really give you a good answer.

However, there are a couple of initial thoughts to start with:First, if you absolutely NEED the income now, then there is not much of a discussion. You would opt to receive benefits as soon as eligible in your case (generally 62, but not sure of your ages).Second, begin to educate yourself on the rules and nuances of the Social Security system. Al...

Martin Weil

Martin Weil


Generally, the highest lifetime return to be had from Social Security benefits is to wait until you are age 70 to begin taking distributions. This is due to the 8% automatic annual increase in benefit payments when the start is delayed to that age, and the fact that most of us will live past their early 80s when the amount received from taking benefits later outstrips that of taking them at the typical retirement age.

If you decide however to start SS benefits before age 70 for whatever reason, an individual should never take them...

James Dowd

James Dowd


If you can afford to wait, generally the economic value of your benefit will be higher given current interest rates and the fact that life expectancy is increasing.

For most people retiring at standard age, for each year you delay taking your benefit, SSA will increase it by 8% per annum until you hit age 70. This higher benefit is paid for the rest of your life (and as a reduced survivor benefit), whether you live 15 years or 25 years longer.

Of course you need to check your particular facts and circumstances, and yo...

Alexey Bulankov

Alexey Bulankov


If you need the money to meet your living expenses, the answer is “as soon as you’re eligible” .

If you can afford to wait, the amount of your future benefit increases between 4.5% and 8% for each year you delay until age 70. Compare this to simply putting this money in a bank.

You can use this handy calculator to determine specific number. In addition there are a number of strategies, which allow you maximize your benefit, but which of the strategies to use depends in large on your individual circumstance.

Craig Allen

Craig Allen


The best approach is to first identify your expected spending needs at retirement to see, based on all sources of income, how much you will need from Social Security. You can create several scenarios, based on different retirement ages, to see what impact these different scenarios will have on your retirement income. By comparing the scenarios, and making reasonable assumptions about your retirement needs, you can then decide when to take your Social Security benefits. I recommend including this scenario analysis as ...

I think Martin Weil gave a very good summary of this discussion. The bottom line is you want to maximize your benefit based on ALL the options available. Especially if you are married, sit down with a planner who understands Social Security or spend a LOT of time at Most folks take their benefit too early and not strategically and leave tens of thousands on the table. You can get $50,60,000 or more each year in guaranteed income with a cost of living adjustment if you are strategic and make the rules work for you.

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Read Martin Weil's answer below - it's a great summary.

Note that especially for married couples (particularly where they both had earnings) it may be quite complex to find the most optimal strategy. Consider running your numbers through something like <//> or consulting with an advisor who has access to similar professional software.

In general, the longer you wait, the more you'll get (if you live long enough to benefit from the higher payments). Waiting, however, may mean spending down ot...

Guy Baker

Guy Baker


Once you are eligible for SS, the benefit will increase about 8% per year until you are 71. So if you have the ability and can afford to push off taking SS, the more you will receive.

The compensating issue is longevity. It is a math question. Suppose your SS is $2500 per month this year and $2650 next year.

If you wait one year - you don't receive $30,000 ($2500 times 12 months). In exchange you will receive $1800 more for x years. ($150 extra per month times 12 months). It will take nearly 17 years to breakeven on that decision. So do...

Lisa Hay

Lisa Hay


As previously stated, the current "effective rate" of deferring taking social security from initial to age 70 is 8% per year.

It is difficult to find a "guaranteed" investment that has those returns. There are many "gotcha's" and spousal provisions in the social security code, which add to the impact of making a wrong choice. As an advisor who specializes in this area (few do, since there is no commission or residual income involved in SS planning) I have written an ebook which is available on Amazon

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