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Taking an Early Benefit

Am I wrong to think I can make more money by investing it?

Q. I understand that a $750-a-month Social Security benefit taken at age 62 would be worth 33 percent more ($1,000) at age 66 and 76 percent more ($1,320) at age 70. But I'm going to take my benefit now at 62 because I figure I can invest my payments and make even more money. Is this bad logic?

See also: Best age to claim Social Security benefits.

A. When to begin benefits is always a bit of a guessing game — you're guessing how long you're going to live. But here are some facts to ponder:

  • If you start at 62, your check will be forever small.

  •  If you plan to keep working and you make more than $14,160 a year, some or all of your benefit will be withheld until you're 66, so you won't have that money to invest.

  • If you wait until 70, you'll get the highest possible benefit, an increase of about 8 percent a year from your full retirement age of 66.

  • A spouse who outlives you and reaches full retirement age may qualify to receive a higher survivor benefit for the rest of his or her life.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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