You have a choice when it comes to collecting Social Security: You can start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or wait until you’re 70. Your choice can make a big difference in the amount of money you collect.
When you crunch the numbers, it’s clear that waiting to start collecting Social Security can dramatically increase your overall benefit amount. If you’re wondering how to boost Social Security payments, playing the long game lets you maximize your social security benefits.
When to Start Collecting Social Security
Age 66 or 67 (depending on when you were born) is considered your full retirement age. Waiting past this age to receive your Social Security payments can increase the amount you receive up to 8 percent per year, up to age 70 if you were born after 1943. At age 70, you would receive the maximum amount per month.
Here’s how it could play out for someone with a $1,000 monthly benefit and a full retirement age of 67:
- Collecting at age 62: $700 per month
- Collecting at age 67: $1,000 per month
- Collecting at age 70: $1,240 per month
So, in this example, age 70 would be the best age to maximize Social Security benefits as waiting until then would increase your payments by $540 per month compared to age 62.
Of course, payments end when your life ends. So, if you have a chronic health condition or a shorter life expectancy, you may want to start collecting payments earlier. On the other hand, if you expect to live for a long time, you may be better off waiting to collect, since you could receive the bigger payments for many years.
Do I Have to Keep Working?
If you want to wait to collect Social Security, you don't necessarily have to keep working after retirement. Depending on your situation, you may be able to stop working and use money from other investments or pensions as income while you wait to draw your Social Security. You may also want to scale back your work to part-time to help cover the gap.
Reducing your expenses can help as well. For example, downsizing to a smaller home or relocating to a less-expensive area may give you the cushion you need in your budget to quit working without collecting Social Security.
What If I Can't Wait That Long?
There are a variety of reasons why waiting until age 70 might be too long for you and/or your spouse. In some cases — whether it’s because of a shorter life expectancy due to illness or a lack of confidence in the system — waiting simply isn’t a workable solution for you.
However, if it’s financial challenges you’re facing, you may be able to find a way to delay benefits. To do so, you’ll need to begin by asking some questions:
- When do my spouse and I plan to stop working?
- What will our income needs be between ages 62 and 66/67 (full retirement age)?
- What will our income needs be between ages 66/67 (full retirement age) and 70?
- What will our income needs be at age 70 and beyond?
- What other sources of income do we already have?
- What is our risk tolerance for investments?
The answers to these questions can help you spot opportunities. For example, maybe one spouse continues to work while the other retires. Perhaps you have time to grow other sources of income before you retire. Or you may discover you’re more tolerant of risk in your investments if it could potentially increase your retirement income.
Talk to an Expert You Can Trust
Are you looking for tips on how to increase your Social Security benefits? Whether you’re ready to begin planning your retirement income or approaching retirement age, we can help you evaluate your options. Contact your local Farm Bureau agent or advisor for help creating a retirement strategy that fits your needs and helps you meet your goals.