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With Social Security, Timing Matters

If you’re like most retirees, you’ll automatically start taking Social Security when you’re 62.  But just because this is the earliest you can start collecting doesn’t mean it makes the most sense for your financial wellbeing.  Realizing that when you collect has a big impact on how much you collect is a smart way to start strategizing how to take your federal benefit.

Everyone is first eligible to start taking Social Security at age 62.  However, doing so will mean you only receive a fraction of your true benefit.  Delaying until “full” retirement age means you are eligible for your “full” amount. Benefits are reduced if you collect early, but they are increased if you delay collecting.  You will get 8 percent more per year if you collect after you reach full retirement age, up to age 70 when this yearly increase stops. 

But when it comes to Social Security, even figuring out your “full” retirement age can get complicated, because the “full” age varies depending on when you were born.  For those born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66, and collecting at age 62 means you’ll only receive 75 percent of your benefits.  If you were born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67, and if you start collecting at 62 you will get just 70 percent of benefits.  The years between 1954 and 1960 vary.

The following example shows how much your benefit can change depending on when you claim.  Say you were born in 1953. If you were eligible for $2,230 per month at the full retirement age of 66, you would only receive $1,672 a month if you started claiming at age 62.  If you waited until age 70, you could receive $2,943 per month.  That’s a big difference, and it adds up to an even larger disparity over the course of your life. 

Because of this significant difference in the size of your benefit, it’s vital that you look at all your options before starting benefits.  But if you’re married, the choices get even more complex.  Coordinating spousal benefits is one of the most difficult areas of Social Security planning.  There are many opportunities to maximize a couple’s combined benefits, but the rules are complicated, and a good plan for each person individually may not be the best plan for the two of you together.  Things get even more complex if you are widowed, divorced or still working. 

Delaying retirement in order to receive a larger benefit is a choice that makes sense for many, but might not be right for your particular situation.  That’s why it’s so important to evaluate your options before you collect.  After you start collecting, there’s no going back.  But by looking at the different choices available to you and your spouse before you retire, you could be starting your retirement off on the right foot.


Christopher Scalese, financial advisor and president of Fortune Financial Group, is best known as Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Retirement Specialist. Scalese has spent the last two decades of his career assisting area residents with the financial transition from the working years to the retirement years. His primary goal is to help individuals structure their finances so that they have a steady income throughout their lifetime, while working to ensure their finances aren’t overly exposed to risk or unnecessary taxation. Scalese is an investment advisor representative, life and health insurance licensed and currently working on earning his Chartered Financial Consultant designation. Scalese received his Bachelor of Science degree in finance and Master of Business Administration degree from Wilkes University. For more information about Christopher Scalese and Fortune Financial Group, please visit

Investment advisory services offered through Global Financial Private Capital, LLC,
an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.

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