Should I delay taking social Security or take it early?

April 11, 2023


I know plenty of people who decided they were tired of working and took Social Security as soon as they were eligible–age 62.

But is it the smartest decision?

No. It isn’t.

If you wait until your full retirement age, you’ll get up to 30 percent more than if you take Social Security when you first become eligible. That’s significant.

But consider this: If you can wait until age 70, you’ll get more than 75 percent more than if you took it at 62.

That’s no small thing.

Yes, you can find all sorts of calculators that purport to show it’s smarter in some circumstances to take the cash young and invest it.

But not so fast: If you wait, you are GUARANTEED the higher benefit. That’s a six to seven percent increase a year. No investment you make is going to guarantee that. In fact, you could lose it all. All investments are risky.  Social security is not. (At least so far. Unless certain politicians get a hold of it.)

You also will get credit for inflation over those years you wait.

And are you really going to invest it?

That’s the question. Most people never do. They just spend it.

There’s another reason to wait:

If you’re married and the spouse with the bigger benefit waits to take their benefit until they are  70, the surviving spouse is guaranteed a higher benefit. The highest benefit.

So yes, it’s smart to wait. And then enjoy more of the fruits of your labors.

Obviously, if we knew we were going to die young we’d take it right away. But most of us do not die young.

And some people simply have to take it early because of their personal situation.

What I’ve seen a lot, though, is people who simply refuse to take the longer view.

But bottom line: you will get the biggest pay out possible if you wait until age 70.


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12 comments on “Should I delay taking social Security or take it early?
  1. My partner has mathed this to smithereens (and he’s good at the math stuff) and he’s waiting till 70. I probably will too because he already mathed it out and I don’t want to. 😉 Good info. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, no matter how you cut it these are the numbers. All the mathing has to rely on assumptions about investment return otherwise and that is never static. This is a sure thing. Of course, if in need, the scenario changes.

  2. I can remember this being a point of conversation at a holiday dinner at my parent’s house years ago when early retirement was the talk of the 50+ crowd. Now I’m in the 50+ crowd and agree with you. Wait if you can.

  3. I took it early because I had to. It’s what I live on along with some freelance and blog income. I never had a 401K or any inheritance.

  4. Laura says:

    Yes, the guaranteed benefit is higher, but most people have to live many years beyond their maximum benefit age to recoup all of the money they left on the table while waiting to get their maximum benefit. My breakeven to wait until age 70 is 9.5 years, so I have live to age 79 1/2 before I will receive all of the same total benefits I would have received had I started drawing at age 62. My husband’s break even point is 9.3 years, so just under 79 1/2. As such, we are both taking our benefits at age 62 (he is 5 years older then me and is currently 60). We are not going to give up 8 years of guaranteed income in hopes that we both live beyond age 79 in order to recoup the money we didn’t take during those 8 years. It’s simple math – “x” amount of early benefits not taken (i.e. your age 62 benefit times 8 years) divided by the extra annual benefit received by waiting. We are choosing to take the “bird in the hand” approach rather than hoping we live long enough to recoup what we didn’t take early. It’s a personal decision, as are all financial decisions, but it pays to also know what you are giving up by waiting.

    • I see it differently. For me, if it doesn’t affect my quality of life I’m really not giving up anything, but that’s my view. I didn’t need it before 70 but now I am enjoying the larger check for sure. Really enjoying it. I get that it’s my money but the annual amount is always a surprise to me.

  5. Alana says:

    It’s a decision everyone needs to figure out based on their health, savings, and other personal factors. For me the right decision was to wait until 70.

    • Yes. And if possible it is helpful to take the longer view, and if you are young, to plan that way. I hope politicians don’t mess with sS. I’m not sure it’s ever been so at risk as it is this season of craziness.

  6. Janette says:

    We have plenty, but both of us chose full retirement age. Hubby did a few years ago and I will start in December. These are our go go years- moving into slow go. It just helps us, psychologically, afford what we want to do. Yes, a larger check at 70, but less time to play!
    What I find fascinating is the guilt I feel when touching retirement accounts! What did we save that money for anyway?

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