Should You – And Can You – Wait a Few Years to Claim Social Security?

You're eligible to start receiving Social Security at age 62 – but there may be good reasons to wait. Your monthly payment is determined by your age at sign-up. The longer you wait, the larger your payments.

Most people currently approaching retirement will reach what Social Security defines as full retirement age while they're 66 years old – the exact month depends on the year you were born. If necessary, you can start receiving benefits sooner. However, because benefits would be spread out over more years, if you sign up at age 62 your payments will be reduced about 25 percent. Hold off past age 66, and benefits go up about 8 percent yearly until age 70 when they reach the maximum – about 132 percent of the age 66 amount.1

So, what should you consider before starting to receive Social Security? These are just a few thoughts to get you started.

  • Are you married? Spouses can either claim their own benefits or receive an amount equivalent to half of their spouse's benefits. What's more, surviving spouses receive a wage earner's full benefits, so collecting too soon will reduce their lifetime benefits as well. If both spouses have benefits, it's important to coordinate claims.
  • How long do you expect to live? Life expectancies are up. If you're married, there's a good chance one of you will live past age 90, so a higher benefit may help fill in gaps in retirement assets.1
  • Still working? If you've reached the full retirement age, your earnings won't impact your benefits if you decide to start taking Social Security. Before that, however, your benefits will be reduced if you earn above certain limits. You don't lose that money, though – your benefit amount will be recalculated once you reach full retirement age to make sure you get credited for any deductions.1

Timing Social Security properly can have a big impact for decades to come. Watch this brief video for more information and talk to a PNC financial professional about how Social Security payments fit into a complete retirement plan.