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Social Security Mailbox

Claim Early Benefit — or Not?

Before deciding, consider your health, family history, money needs

Q. I'm almost 62 and wondering, what's the best age to begin my benefits?

A. There's no single "best age." It's a personal decision.

The basic question is, should you start your benefit early, at 62, and lock it in at a discounted amount, or start it later at a higher level? The monthly check will keep rising until you hit 70.

See also: Calculate the best time to collect Social Security.

Social Security sets the amounts so that if you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you'll receive roughly the same amount of total benefits, no matter when you start taking them.

Factors you'll want to consider when making your decision:

  •  Your health.
  •  Your family's history of longevity.
  •  Your need for income.
  •  Your other sources of retirement income.
  •  Your plans (or lack of them) to continue working after you start benefits.

If you start benefits before full retirement age, currently 66, and continue to work, you'll likely have payments withheld if you make more than a certain ceiling, now $14,160.

You may also like: Are you on track for retirement? >>

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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