Deciding when to start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits is an important choice that will impact the income you receive for the rest of your life. The decision can also affect the income and lifestyle of a surviving spouse.
When it comes to Social Security, you may be wondering whether you should:
- Start collecting early but receive a reduced benefit?
- Wait until Full Retirement Age to start collecting your full benefit?
- Delay past Full Retirement Age to maximize your benefit?
To help make an informed decision, you’ll want to consider a number of key factors, including your marital status, your health, your plans for retirement and your retirement income sources…just to name few.
Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is the age at which you qualify for 100% of your Social Security benefits (known as your Primary Insurance Amount). Your FRA is based on your year of birth.
When you’re ready to start collecting benefits, you should apply for Social Security no more than four months before the date you want your benefits to start.
If you start collecting Social Security benefits and then change your mind about your choice of start date, you may be able to withdraw your claim and re-apply at a future date, provided you do so within 12 months of your original application for benefits. All benefits (including spousal and dependent benefits) must be repaid and you may only withdraw your application for benefits once in your lifetime.
You generally have three main options when it comes to choosing when to start collecting your benefits—often referred to as your Social Security “filing strategy.”
- Start collecting early
- Start collecting at Full Retirement Age
- Start collecting after Full Retirement Age
Each filing strategy has advantages and disadvantages.
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