3 Important Things to Consider Before Filing for Social Security
Retirement is a major life change. If you’re nearing retirement, you probably already realize you have some big decisions ahead of you. One of the most important of these is deciding when to file for Social Security.
While some people choose to file as soon as they become eligible, the conventional wisdom is that it’s typically best to wait as long as possible. The reason for this common advice is that delaying your Social Security claim enables you to increase the amount of your benefit.
So which option should you choose? The truth is there’s really no one-size-fits-all answer. The best time to file for your benefits depends on your individual circumstances and unique needs and goals. It’s important to think through your options carefully, however, because the decision is permanent. Once you decide to file, you can’t change your mind.
Below are a few factors to take into account as you prepare to make this important decision:
Your Level of Need
Do you have an immediate need for the monthly income your benefit will provide? Is Social Security your only option? For example, perhaps you were forced into early retirement because of job loss or disability. Assess your financial situation honestly. It’s important to make the distinction between just wanting the extra money and actually needing it.
If you truly have a dire need and lack other income options, there may be little sense in waiting for a higher benefit. If you don’t really “need” the income right away, however, it may be in your best interest to delay filing.
By waiting, you will receive an 8 percent increase in your benefit for each year past your full retirement age that you delay filing. For example, if your full retirement age is 66 and you delay filing to age 70, you could receive an 8 percent increase for four years, giving you a permanent benefit increase of 32 percent.1
Your Health Status
Another situation in which it may not make sense to wait to file for Social Security is if you don’t believe you’ll live long enough to receive the benefit for more than a few years. The state of your health could be something to take into account if you have a chronic long-term health issue that may be likely to shorten your life, such as heart disease or cancer. This may also be something to consider if you have a family history of such ailments.
However, be cautious about making this decision based on family history alone. Advances in medicine are providing increasingly longer life spans. Even if your parents or grandparents passed away early in retirement, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to the same fate.
Your Eligibility for Spousal Benefit
Social Security offers an option called a spousal benefit for married individuals who have earned less over their career than their spouse. If you’re eligible to take advantage of this opportunity, you and your spouse can potentially use this as a strategy to maximize your Social Security benefits.
For example, you can file for your individual benefit as early as possible while your higher-earning spouse delays. Then, after your spouse files, you can switch to the spousal benefit, based on the higher-earning spouse’s income.
You and your spouse may be able to work together to create an ideal strategy. A financial professional can also help you analyze your options in line with your needs and goals.
Ready to plan out your ideal Social Security strategy? Let’s talk about it! Contact us today to request a free initial strategy session with our experienced Social Security planning expert who can help you analyze your needs and develop a strategy.
The material is not intended to be legal or tax advice. The insurance agent can provide information, but not advice related to social security benefits. Clients should seek guidance from the Social Security Administration regarding their particular situation. The insurance agent may be able to identify potential retirement income gaps and may introduce insurance products, such as an annuity, as a potential solution. Social Security benefit payout rates can and will change at the sole discretion of the Social Security Administration. For more information, please consult a local Social Security Administration office, or visit www.ssa.gov
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