For many retirees, Social Security benefits are seen as hot money on the table, to be devoured as soon as possible. But as with preparing and savoring a fine meal, a careful approach and delayed gratification may yield the highest rewards from the program.
Many financial planners advise that you wait as long as possible before receiving benefits. Despite this, a sizable number of Americans who have reached 62 — 41 percent of men and 46 percent of women — apply for Social Security at 62, the earliest age at which you can take payments. The way Social Security works, this will lock in the lowest possible payment for life.
The “early” approach works if you need the money immediately. A lot of people, especially the millions who haven’t saved much, do need it. But the decision would penalize you over time. You would be passing up a progressively higher benefit available in each of the next eight years. This period includes when you reach what Social Security calls your “fullretirement age” — 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954, as old as 67 for later arrivals — and what might be called a bonus period after that, ending at age 70.
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