When Is the Right Time to File for Social Security?

Some say you should claim your benefits ASAP, while others say wait until 70. The bottom line: What works for someone else might not work for you. Here are some considerations.

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Social Security is a government program designed to provide financial support during retirement. As a retirement planner with over 25 years of experience, I understand how important Social Security is for people of retirement age.

For many people, Social Security represents a substantial portion of their retirement funds, accounting for over 50% and, in some cases, even 100% of their income. At the same time, it is extremely complex. According to the IRS website, there are thousands of combinations for how you could take Social Security.

Instead of navigating the daunting complexities of Social Security on your own, I always recommend speaking to a financial professional so that you can make an informed decision. The right approach to Social Security could add up to thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

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Factors to consider when deciding when to take Social Security benefits

Age. Individuals can start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or delay until age 70, with the full retirement age (FRA) usually ranging from 66 to 67, depending on the year of birth. Claiming early can give you immediate income, but it will result in permanently reduced benefits and potential tax implications if you’re still working. Claiming at FRA offers the advantage of receiving full benefits without reductions. However, delaying further up to age 70 results in increases in monthly benefits.

Income. Ultimately, when it comes to claiming, if you need the money now, that is the most important consideration. Changes in personal health, employment status or financial situation can alter the decision-making process. Individuals may opt to claim earlier to cover living expenses, even though it may result in lower lifetime benefits.

Life expectancy. Health considerations are essential. The primary advantage to delaying benefits is the significant increase in monthly benefits, which can be advantageous for those expecting to live longer. However, the trade-off is forgoing benefits during the delay period.

Marital status. Married couples can strategize when and how to claim benefits to help optimize their combined benefits. Age differences between spouses are also an important consideration. For example, even if the higher earner has a lower life expectancy, a couple may decide to delay claiming benefits so that their spouse can have a higher monthly survivor benefit.

The impact of COLA on Social Security benefits

Cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are increases in Social Security benefits designed to counteract the effects of inflation and maintain the purchasing power of retirees’ benefits over time. For example, if an individual’s monthly benefit is $2,500 and there’s a 2% COLA, their benefit for the following year will be $2,550, an increase of $50, which is 2% of $2,500.

COLA affects the overall value of Social Security benefits, especially for those who delay claiming. Delaying benefits will result in a higher base amount that will receive COLA adjustments, leading to increased benefits over time.

Common myths regarding Social Security timing

Claiming benefits early guarantees higher lifetime benefits. While claiming early provides immediate income over a potentially longer period of time, it permanently reduces the monthly benefit amount. Delaying benefits can lead to increased benefits over time for those with longer life expectancies.

There is a “right” time to take Social Security. The idea of a one-size-fits-all answer to the Social Security timing question is unfortunately not possible. Too many factors and unique considerations must be considered for there to be a cut-and-dried answer to find the best time for your specific situation. Everyone’s situation is unique, which is why I recommend meeting with a retirement planner. A retirement plan, created with the help of a professional, could help optimize Social Security claiming strategies and lead to increased retirement income.

Social Security will cover my entire cost of living in retirement. Social Security could cover your expenses in retirement, but for many retirees, Social Security is a base, and they need to take withdrawals from investments to make up for what they need in retirement. However, it is crucial not to go overboard and drain your savings too quickly. A personalized retirement cash flow plan can help estimate what amount of withdrawal from your investments would be good to look at to supplement your Social Security income.

Social Security is a vital component of retirement planning, and the decision of when to claim benefits should be made with careful consideration of individual circumstances. By understanding the significance of Social Security, considering COLAs and evaluating various claiming strategies, retirees can make informed choices to maximize their retirement benefits.

All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author, Ken Moraif, as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Ken Moraif is a controlling owner and investment adviser representative of MMWKM Advisors, LLC, (d/b/a Retirement Planners of America, “RPOA”), which is an SEC-registered investment adviser. Registration as an investment adviser is not an endorsement by securities regulators and does not imply that ROPA has attained a certain level of skill, training, or ability. Ken Moraif has worked in the financial services industry since 1988. He has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional since 1998. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

Information presented is intended for educational purposes only. Readers should not rely on the content as the sole basis for any retirement planning decisions. A professional adviser should be consulted and/or independent due diligence should be conducted before implementing any of the options directly or indirectly referenced. Any hyperlinks included this article are provided as a convenience for educational and informational purposes only. RPOA does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether hyperlinked within the article or otherwise incorporated herein, and takes no responsibility for the same.

This article should not be construed as a solicitation to effect, or attempt to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice. RPOA makes no warranty, express or implied, for any decision taken by any party in reliance upon the information discussed.


This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

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Ken Moraif, MBA, CFP®, CRPC®
CEO and Senior Adviser, Retirement Planners of America

Ken Moraif is the CEO and founder of Retirement Planners of America (RPOA), a Dallas-based wealth management and investment firm with over $3.58 billion in assets under management and serving 6,635 households in 48 states (as of Dec. 31, 2023).