You can begin taking early social security payments as young as age 62. Most people start taking it around age 66. Some people believe that you should wait until age 70 if you’re in a position to do so. What’s the right answer? It’s hard to say. There are some big pros and cons to taking that money early. Understanding those can help you make the right decision for your own retirement.
What Happens When You Take Early Social Security?
Generally speaking, you’re able to get your “full retirement” when you reach around age 66. (This varies slightly depending on individual circumstances.) If you take that money early, then you don’t get the full amount. Therefore, your monthly Social Security payments are lower than they would be if you waited.
On the other hand, you start to receive that money sooner. If you reach age 62 and really need that Social Security income, then you might find that it’s worth it to take the lower monthly amount. You’ll start getting that monthly check years before you would if you waited until reaching full retirement age.
So, in terms of the most basic pros and cons, taking your money earlier means:
- The benefit is that you start receiving your money sooner.
- The drawback is that you get less money per month throughout your retirement.
Social Security May Change in 2035
The Motley Fool makes a great case for taking early Social Security, which is that big changes may await when it comes to social security. In fact, Congress may cut benefits by 23% for all people receiving social security from that point forward. Therefore, if you’re thinking about retiring between now and then, it might be worth it to take the money early.
Yes, you’ll get less per month when you do that. However, you’ll earn the full “lesser” amount every year up until 2035. The longer you wait to start taking payments, the less time you have to accrue money before that potentially huge Social Security cut.
Of course, we don’t actually know for sure what decision Congress will make. There’s a chance that they won’t make that cut. Or it might not be as big. Therefore, taking early Social Security is a risk. You may opt for the lesser monthly amount now, hoping to accrue more before the big cut, only to find out that the big cut doesn’t happen. You’ll still get the lesser monthly amount. It’s not like you can go backwards in time and “take back” your decision to take early Social Security.
So, taking the money early means:
- You might get more money overall by cashing out as early as possible before a big cut.
- If the big cut doesn’t happen, then you might not have made as much as you potentially could have.
We Don’t Know How Long We Will Live
If you had a crystal ball then it might be easier to decide when to take your money. If at age 62 you knew that you only had ten years left to live, then obviously you would take early Social Security. On the other hand, if you knew that you were going to live another thirty years, then you might opt to keep on working until you could completely max out that retirement income.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know. So the pros and cons really depend on factors that we can’t entirely know or control. All that you can do is make the best decision possible with the information that you have as you reach retirement age. Consider your health and likely longevity based on family history and other factors. Think about how much money you’ll likely get if you take early Social Security vs. the full amount. Weigh what would happen if Congress cut that amount in 2035. Then do your best to decide how the pros and cons balance out.