Five Strategies for Deciding When to File For Social Security

When to file for social security? Applying at age 70 maximizes your monthly payout, but claiming early could provide advantages that can’t be quantified on a spreadsheet.

A senior couple looking off into the distance.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Waiting until age 70 to file for Social Security retirement benefits is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk that you’ll run out of money in your later years. But in some instances, filing for benefits at your full retirement age (FRA) or even earlier could provide more financial security for you and your family. And some retirees may find that filing early will significantly improve their quality of life.

If you’re approaching retirement, or you’ve retired but haven’t filed for Social Security, you’ve no doubt heard about the advantages of waiting until age 70 to claim your benefits. You can file for benefits as early as age 62, but your monthly payout will be as much as 30% lower than the amount you’ll receive if you wait until your full retirement age. (FRA is 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954; it gradually rises to 67 for younger people.) Your annual cost-of-living adjustment will be lower, too, because the COLA is based on the amount of your benefit. 

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Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.