When Should You Claim Social Security?

Published January 18th, 2017 by Unknown

Of all the questions our clients face, this is certainly one of the most perplexing. Timing when to claim  social security benefits has a significant and permanent impact on your retirement cash flow. In  weighing your decision, consider your health outlook and longevity expectations, whether you plan to  continue working and your current and future cash flow needs. Below, we cover some basic  considerations. To discuss more in‐depth planning suggestions, please contact JMS Capital Group  Wealth Services.  

You can begin drawing social security benefits based on your lifetime earnings at age 62. But claiming  before you reach your designated full  retirement age (FRA)—the age when you’re  entitled to receive 100% of your benefits— will reduce your monthly payment by up to  30%. Since it has been gradually rising,  depending on your date of birth, FRA might  be 65, 66, or 67. For each year past that you  delay taking benefits, up until age 70, your  total monthly benefit increases by 8%. (You  will not receive any additional credits for  delaying benefits beyond age 70.)  

Maximizing your monthly payment by  delaying claiming until age 70 is likely to be in  your best interest. Based on actuarial estimates, Americans who reach age 65 can expect to live, on  average, an additional 20 years. For high‐net‐worth individuals, life expectancy can be even longer, and  the risk of outliving funds greater. That said, if your health outlook is uncertain, or you have reason to  believe taking benefits earlier will maximize your total payout, you might prefer to begin taking them at  your FRA, or even sooner, rather than waiting until age 70. That’s because the breakeven point— the age  at which you would make up the income missed from taking smaller, early payments—for most people  is somewhere between their late 70s to early 80s. But this is highly dependent on how long you delay  claiming benefits and your assumptions regarding returns, taxes, and inflation. 

To help you decide your optimal filing date, we consider the following: 

  • Earnings in retirement—If you work while drawing social security benefits, that could impact  the calculation of your benefit amount, and possibly result in a higher ultimate payout. But if  you haven’t reached FRA, your monthly payment will be reduced if you earn more than a set  amount a year (for 2016, this was $15,720).    
  • Spousal benefits—Legislation passed last year closed loopholes that allowed one member of a  married couple to begin receiving benefits based on a spouse’s earnings while that spouse  suspended his or her own benefits and continued accruing increased credits. But rules still exist  for spouses, and even ex‐spouses, to receive payouts based on their partner’s benefits.  January 2017  2  
  • Tax planning strategies—If your combined earnings from all sources exceed certain thresholds  (this varies by tax filing status), some of your social security benefits could be subject to taxes.  For example, once you reach age 70½, you must take required minimum distributions (RMDs)  from your tax‐deferred retirement accounts. Combined with social security payments, taxable  RMD withdrawals could push you into a higher tax bracket. A JMS Capital Group Wealth Services  advisor can discuss planning techniques to help you manage your income in a way that  minimizes the tax impact. Before deciding which specific steps to take though, we suggest  speaking with a tax professional to discuss your individual situation. 

We also recommend contacting the Social Security Administration, ideally through an in‐person  appointment, to go through your options given your earnings history, desire and/or ability to continue  working, and marital status, among other things. 

As with many things in life, the future of social security is uncertain. The government has so far relied on  tinkering at the margins— gradually raising the retirement age and the ceiling on income subject to  social security taxes to maintain the system’s solvency, but more extensive changes can’t be ruled out.  To the extent claiming benefits before age 70 increases your peace of mind and makes financial sense,  you might choose that route.

-JMS Team

This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument or investment strategy. Certain material in this work is proprietary to and copyrighted by Peak Advisor Alliance and is used by JMS Capital Group Wealth Services LLC with permission. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, accounting, legal or tax advice. Any forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be relied upon as advice or interpreted as a recommendation.

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