min read
Braden Mosley

When should I start drawing Social Security benefits?

A woman walked into my office. Her face held a kind of tension, or even sorrow, I knew she couldn't shake.

Her husband recently passed. She was dealing not only with the pain of losing her lifelong companion, but she was simultaneously hit with social security, medicare, retirement, rules, regulations, and jargon she disn't understand.

It was too much.

Do I draw social security, or do I wait? I don't have much income, my husband took care of our finances. I'm just so confused!!!!"

She was not alone. The program she had paid into her whole life, designed to offer her security, felt like a 100lb weight on her chest.

How does this program work (in plain English)

Social Security is a program that many people know about but might not fully understand.

It was created to help support people when they retire, if they become disabled, or if they are family members of someone who has died.

With every paycheck you get, you contribute a little bit to this program so that, hopefully, when you retire, it offers you a reasonable income.

This is the government's way of making sure you have some money coming in when you retire, as a thank you for all the years you worked and contributed to the system.

When can I start getting benefits?

At the heart of Social Security is the idea of Full Retirement Age (FRA), which is the age when you can start getting your full benefits.

The FRA depends on when you were born, but it's sometime between 66 and 67. See the chart for your exact age.

However, you can start drawing as early as 62, or as late as 70, but there are some pros and cons.

How your benefit amount changes from 62 to 70

Timing is key when it comes to starting your Social Security benefits.

You have a few options:

  1. Retiring early at 62
  2. Waiting until your Full Retirement Age (FRA)
  3. Delaying past your FRA

Here's how each one affects your benefit amount (aka monthly income):

  • Drawing before your FRA (from 62 to FRA): Your monthly payments can be up to 30% less. You start getting a paycheck sooner, but you may get less money overall if you live long
  • At Full Retirement Age: You'll get the full benefit amount you're entitled to, based on your earnings over the years.
  • Delaying until after FRA (up to age 70): Your benefits increase by 8% for each year you delay. Delaying 3 full years would give you approximately 124% of your benefit amount

To draw, or not to draw, that is the question.

On average, the breakeven age is around 78.5 years old.

At this age, those who chose to wait until their FRA would start to make more money overall than those who started drawing early.

However, that alone will not give you a concrete answer. There are many factors to consider.

Here's what else to consider:

  • Thinking About How Long You Might Live: If people in your family tend to live a long time, and you are relatively healthy, waiting longer to start your benefits could mean more money over your lifetime.
  • Needing Money Now: If you're struggling with bills and expenses right now, starting your benefits early could help give you the income you need.
  • Having Other Sources of Income: If you have other money coming in during retirement, you might choose to wait a bit before taking Social Security benefits, which could make them larger later on.

Get the weight off your chest

Peace of mind is most likely on the other side of a few tough decisions.

Here's exactly how I recommend deciding whether to draw early or wait:

  1. Go to ssa.gov and sign up for a "my Social Security" account. (click here to Login or create an account)
  2. Once you're logged in, you can check your earnings record and see how much you've built up in benefits so far.
  3. Use the Retirement Estimator to play around with different retirement ages to see how they would affect your benefits.
  4. Play it out. Write down the benefit month by month if you started drawing at different ages.
  5. Assess your other sources of income, overall health, and financial position.

Want one-on-one guidance?

If you'd like to discuss this topic further, schedule a free meeting with me.

I'm not a Social Security Expert, but I help people gain peace of mind in retirement through insurance and annuities, and I explain Social Security benefits to people nearly every day.

That’s all for today.

See you next week!

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