Selecting The Right Start Date for Social Security Income: 3 Common Obstacles

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Natalie asked, when should I start taking Social Security?

Natalie worked in healthcare her entire life. She raised children, largely alone, and put them through college. Natalie was unsure if she had enough money to retire, and unsure about when to start Social Security Retirement Income. She had many friends and they would talk about money occasionally. Often the conversation concluded with an unpleasant euphemism: “Just work until you die, I guess!”

Natalie knew she was in average health. She was realistic about what she (and all of us) would face near the end of life. Regarding hospitals, medicines and difficult decisions, she felt confident; but not with money. For starters, Natalie was confused about when to start Social Security.

At What Age Is Social Security Retirement Income Available?

Social Security Retirement Income benefits are available to you as early as age 62. Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefits begin at 67. The benefits max out at age 70, so there is no reason to wait longer than that. Should you take your Social Security income as early as possible?

This paper walks through the essential decisions and lays it out in a way that you can do this for yourself. Learn the overall Social Security Income planning process. Then learn how to find your income depending on what age you start the income. Once you know the income for each age, then you can calculate the breakeven age. Or, you can call a financial planner and they can calculate this for you.

3 obstacles you face when deciding when to start  Social Security Retirement Income

Three big obstacles make it difficult to make the decision of when to start taking Social Security Retirement Income (SSRI). The answers to these problems are unknowable, but you can still make a good decision with a little education. First, you don’t know how long you will live. Second, like many people, you may worry about the solvency of the Social Security program. Finally, Social Security benefits are confusing and a lot of information on the internet can be misleading. Let’s discuss each of these in more detail.

We don’t know how long we will live

It is not just a math problem, deciding when to start Social Security. You don’t know when you are going to die. If you did, then we could quickly calculate the best date for you to start your SSRI so you would get the most money out of the Federal government and pay the least taxes. If death was impending, then you would start SSRI as soon as possible. Planning to have a long life, and you knew it, you would start at age 70. This way, you get the maximum income for the longest number of years. Starting at age 70 gives you 25% more income than starting at Full Retirement Age, which is age 67 today.

Worries about the solvency of Social Security

You want to make a decision with the greatest chance of getting the most money out of your Social Security benefits. And, like many people, you may be worried that it might not be there for you!

At least once a year, you likely hear a story about how the Social Security Administration predicts that they will run out of money. The details of every forecast vary, and are confusing, but the storyline has not changed for many years. It is not likely to change for many years more. The odds are good that for the duration of your life, you will read the same stories. The odds are remote—at best—that Social Security benefits will stop completely. And the odds are debatable if and how the benefits will be reduced. In 2022, SSRI benefit age was increased from age 65 to 67 for anyone born 1960 or later. That was the first reduction of benefits in decades, after at least annual threats by various people that benefits would be reduced. So our recommendation is to focus on what you can control and not reduce your future potential SSRI benefits in fear that the government may someday take them away.

Confusion about how the benefits are calculated and what is best for your unique situation

Another huge challenge to deciding when to start your SSRI benefit is the complicated nature of Social Security. There are many rules, and many exceptions to many of the rules. You want to learn the rules that are applicable for your unique situation and ignore all of the rest of the noise. For example, you may read that married couples get benefits that single people do not. If you are married, learn the rules but if you are single, don’t waste your time. If you are divorced, you have certain rules and benefits but if you are not, you may find these rules confusing, stressful and ultimately irrelevant. As a final example, many stories on the internet describe ways to maximize your benefits based on situations that no longer are applicable because since the time that story was published, the SSRI administration eliminated these loopholes. Often the best advice is to focus on your unique situation, talk with an expert, and ignore the noise.

Natalie’s story is a common one. Many of us face uncertainty about when to start claiming Social Security, often feeling overwhelmed by the complexities and potential consequences of this decision. However, remember that you’re not alone. By understanding the common obstacles and seeking personalized advice from experts, you can confidently navigate the Social Security landscape and make the best choice for your unique situation.

Up next

In the next blog post, a deep dive into the six-step process for solving the Social Security puzzle will be discussed. Each step will be broken down, providing clear guidance and actionable tips to empower you to make an informed decision about when to start your benefits. Stay tuned for this comprehensive guide that will help you unlock the full potential of your Social Security benefits and secure a comfortable retirement.

Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. Take control of your Social Security future with continued education like this blog.

About the author

Karl Frank, Certified Financial Planner ®, MSF, MBA, MA, is the President of A&I Financial Services LLC, a local business that specializes in wealth management, insurance planning, and retirement planning. Karl cares for business owners and the businesses that care for them. Learn More about Karl.