Deciding when to begin collecting your Social Security benefits could be one of the most important retirement-income decisions you'll make. The difference between a good decision and a poor one could cost you tens of thousands of dollars over your retirement, so doing your homework and weighing your options now is a wise move.
What to Consider
As you may already know, you can claim Social Security any time between the ages of 62 and 70, but each year you wait increases your benefit by 5-8%. There are other factors you need to take into account to help you make a good decision, like your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, along with spousal and survivor benefits.
To help you weigh your claiming strategies, you need to know that Social Security Administration claims specialists are not trained or authorized to give personal advice on when you should start drawing your benefits. They can only provide you information on how the system works under different circumstances. To get advice you'll need to turn to other sources.
Your first step in getting Social Security claiming strategy advice is to go to SSA.gov/myaccount to get your personalized statement that estimates what your retirement benefits will be at age 62, full retirement age or when you turn 70. These estimates are based on your yearly earnings that are also listed on your report.
Once you get your estimates for both you and your wife, there are many online tools you can use to compare your options so you can make an informed decision.
Some free sites that offer basic calculations include AARP's Social Security Benefits Calculator (AARP.org/socialsecuritybenefits) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Planning for Retirement tool (ConsumerFinance.gov/retirement).
If you want human help, there are specialized firms and financial advisors that can advise you too.
You can also get help through a financial planner. Look for someone who is a fee-only certified financial planner (CFP) who charges on an hourly basis and has experience in Social Security analysis. To find someone, use the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors online directory at NAPFA.org.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.