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Determining When to Receive Social Security Benefits

Feb 2014By Bennett Whitlock, CRPC® Private Wealth Advisor

When does it make sense to start taking Social Security benefits? In anticipation of the millions of baby boomers entering retirement, the government pushed the age of full retirement from 65 to 67 for Americans born in 1960 or later.

In general, the longer you wait to start collecting, the bigger your monthly Social Security check will be. Conversely, take out money sooner, and you’ll get less. Still, if you choose to wait until full retirement age or later, consider how long it will take to catch up to the amount you would have received, cumulatively, had you started at a younger age. This is called the “break-even point.” If you delay your benefits (up to age 70), you may not reach your break-even point until age 79. If longevity runs in the family, waiting could still make sense. However, if you are in poor health, it may not make sense to wait as long.

You could increase your future payments by continuing to work beyond age 62, the soonest you can file, without claiming benefits. That’s because your benefit amount is based on the average of your highest earning years. Bumping up income can result in a plumper check.

On the other hand, if you file for Social Security while continuing to work between age 62 and your full retirement age, the benefits you receive may be taxed and thus reduced.

For married couples, the lower-earning spouse has a potential advantage if the higher wage earner postpones receiving benefits. The lower wage earner receives about half of the spouse’s benefit provided he or she has reached full retirement age and the full benefit if he
or she is widowed.

Review your Social Security statement (request one at to determine your benefits at various ages. Professional advice can also be useful.

Bennett Whitlock, CRPC®, is a private wealth advisor and managing director with Whitlock Wealth Management, a franchise of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Learn more at or call 703-492-7732.

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