Should You Wait to Claim Social Security Until 70?

 In Expectations, Financial Planning, Future, Goals, Happiness, Personal Finance, Retirees, Retirement, Social Security

I’m about to turn 54. How did this happen? For those of you in your 60s, 70s, or 80s, you might be wondering where the time went as well.

The good news is that I feel quite good—maybe not like I felt in my 20s, but still quite good. In this way, I am very grateful. But I have a six-year-old and an eight-year-old and a business that keeps me working hard and looking toward the future.

Is it trite to say that I am becoming more aware of my age, my future, and the time I have left? I think about how I will best enjoy myself, my family, my work, my friends, and new experiences—all that. 

So what do my personal considerations at 54 have to do with your Social Security claiming strategy?

I do a lot of financial plans. A lot! I do them for people from a variety of walks of life and financial circumstances. 

In virtually all of the plans I do, I review with my clients their potential Social Security benefit and help them consider how to claim it. For some of my clients, it is an important decision and will have both short-term and long-term implications.

Most of my clients are under the impression that taking Social Security as late as possible is the best decision. They think that waiting will give them a greater benefit and gain more money over time.  Having more money is better, of course. Also, they might believe that they are getting an 8% return on their investment by delaying it each year, and where else can you get a guaranteed return like that? (Mike Piper’s excellent blog on this notion puts perspective on this concept.)

However, what may be more important than whether or not you end up with more money is how your finances affect your quality of life throughout retirement. If you are thinking of delaying your Social Security until 70, remember that this means that you will, quite obviously, have less money in your mid to late 60s. So what?

The “so what” is that you may want to enjoy your 60’s! You may very well have plans and health and energy and enthusiasm. If you do, and I hope you do, then claiming your Social Security at full retirement age may dramatically improve your quality of life. The monthly paycheck may provide the money and peace of mind you need to relax and enjoy your life.

The problem for many is that delaying Social Security may mean having more money at a time when it doesn’t necessarily improve their quality of life. When you are 88, what you may want is to just be 67 again—and to have spent your money then.

A common message I tell my clients is that you only get one life. That’s it! If you are in a position to enjoy what is important to you while your health and personal relationships allow, taking Social Security when it can add value to your life may be the right decision. 

For some with enough funds, it doesn’t matter when they take Social Security. But for most people it does. I have been reflecting on what is important to me as I reach my mid-50s. Don’t get so caught up in the long term numbers that you forget that you need to enjoy all the days of your retirement on your own terms. Social Security may play a key role in helping you get the most out of the important first years of your retirement.

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