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Making the Right Call: When to Take Social Security Benefits Thumbnail

Making the Right Call: When to Take Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits play a crucial role in retirement planning, providing a financial safety net for individuals who have contributed to the system throughout their working lives. However, deciding when to start taking these benefits is a complex and personal decision. The timing of when to claim Social Security can significantly impact the amount of monthly benefits received, potentially affecting one's financial stability during retirement. In this article, we will explore key factors that can help individuals determine the optimal time to take Social Security benefits.

Understanding Social Security Basics

Before delving into the decision-making process, it's essential to understand some fundamental aspects of Social Security benefits. Social Security is a government program that provides retirement income to eligible individuals based on their work history and contributions to the system. The full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which individuals can claim their full Social Security benefits. It is determined by birth year, ranging from 66 to 67 years old. However, beneficiaries can choose to claim benefits as early as age 62 or delay them until age 70.

Consider Your Financial Needs

One crucial factor in deciding when to take Social Security benefits is assessing your financial needs. If you need the income to cover living expenses and have no other substantial sources of income or savings, claiming benefits at the earliest opportunity (age 62) may be necessary. However, it's important to note that starting benefits early results in a permanent reduction in monthly payments compared to claiming at the FRA.

On the other hand, if you have sufficient savings or other sources of income, delaying benefits beyond the FRA can be advantageous. For each year you delay, your benefits will increase by a certain percentage, known as the "delayed retirement credits." Delaying benefits until age 70 can result in significantly higher monthly payments, providing greater financial security in the later years of retirement.

Longevity Considerations

Another critical factor to weigh when deciding when to claim Social Security benefits is your life expectancy. If you have reason to believe that you may have a shorter-than-average lifespan, it may be advantageous to claim benefits early. While you'll receive reduced monthly payments, you'll also receive them for a longer period, potentially maximizing the total amount you'll collect over your lifetime.

Conversely, if you have good health and a family history of longevity, delaying benefits can be a prudent choice. By waiting until the maximum age of 70, you'll receive higher monthly payments for the rest of your life, providing greater financial security during your later years.

Spousal and Survivor Benefits

Married individuals have additional considerations when determining the best time to take Social Security benefits. Spousal benefits allow one spouse to claim a portion of their partner's Social Security benefit, typically up to 50% of their spouse's full retirement benefit. If you're eligible for spousal benefits, coordinating your claims with your spouse can optimize your combined benefits.

Furthermore, survivor benefits come into play when one spouse passes away. If the higher-earning spouse has delayed claiming benefits, the surviving spouse can receive a higher monthly payment based on their late partner's larger benefit amount. This factor should be considered when making the decision to delay claiming benefits.


Deciding when to take Social Security benefits is a significant financial decision that requires careful consideration. It's important to evaluate your financial needs, assess your life expectancy, and consider the impact on spousal and survivor benefits. While starting benefits early can provide immediate financial support, delaying benefits can lead to larger monthly payments and greater long-term financial security. Consulting with a financial advisor or using online Social Security calculators can help you assess your specific situation and make an informed decision. Ultimately, the right time to take Social Security benefits varies from person to person, and it's essential to weigh all factors to ensure a comfortable and financially secure retirement.

For more information, please contact Stephen Blahovec and Michael Rausch of North River Wealth Advisors.  We are an independent, fee-only financial planning and investment management firm located in Pittsburgh, PA servicing clients locally and across the country.  To learn more, contact us here.

This content is developed by North River Wealth Advisors from sources believed to be providing accurate information. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.