The Persistent Question: When Should I File for Benefits?
The AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory Service has fielded early 9,000 individual requests for help since its January 2016 launch. And while many of the requests we’ve fielded deal with the complexities of Social Security’s myriad rules and regulations, like spousal benefit guidelines and the intricacies of the Windfall Elimination Program (WEP), it’s interesting that the second-most frequent question category is the simple sounding “When should I begin to draw my benefits?”
There is no absolute answer to this question, so our Advisors typically will answer by explaining “It depends on your health, your family history of longevity, and your need for the money.” We generally follow that comment up with a more detailed clarification of the implications of filing early, at full retirement age, or as late as age 70, explaining the changes each age will make to the monthly benefit figure they’ve earned. We also offer, if the requestor is interested, a “break even analysis” which shows what the Social Security income received by the beneficiary would be in a couple of different scenarios. This enables the beneficiary to easily see how long they would have to live to collect the same amount of money if they claimed at, say, age 66 or 67 compared to what you would collect if you didn’t wait and instead started benefits at age 62.
All of this break even analysis aside, there is another school of thought that, according to The Motley Fool’s Katie Brockman, basically says ” … if your lifespan is something close to average, it may not matter much when you file for Social Security.” In a post on fool.com, Ms. Brockman explains the actuarial process the Social Security Administration uses to either discount or “bonus” the claimant’s full retirement age benefit based on when they actually file, noting that the age at which you start benefits ” … may not make much of a difference at all in regards to how much you receive over the course of your retirement.”