When to claim Social Security benefits will be one of the most important decisions that you make regarding your retirement, along with how to take retirement income from your various retirement accounts and how you will fund your health care needs in retirement. The following chart shows the difference for someone turning 62 in 2018. Let’s assume his or her Social Security benefit at full retirement age of 66 plus 4 months is $2,000. The first set of numbers on the chart shows the benefit amounts he or she would receive by claiming at various ages.

When to claim Social Security benefits

Age when claiming benefits:                              Age 62                                                        Age 66 plus 4 mos.                                                                Age 70

Monthly benefit:                                                   $1,467                                                                  $2,000                                                                           $2,587


Monthly benefit as % of FRA benefit:                   73%                                                                      100%                                                                              129%


A change in the rules in late 2015 closed the door on the popular claiming strategy for couples that allowed one spouse to file and suspend his or her benefit while the other spouse files a restricted application for a spousal benefit based on the first spouse’s earnings record. This option ended as of April 30, 2016.

You should also be aware of a special rule for the first year of retirement. This rule allows you to get a full Social Security check for any whole month you’re retired, regardless of your yearly earnings. This helps people who retire in midyear or later who have already earned more than the annual earnings limit.


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