When Should You Start Taking Your Social Security Benefits?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

January 25, 2010 — If your quick response to this question was 62, you might want to think a little harder. More and more information is coming out that supports the idea that you should wait as long as possible, particularly if you or your spouse had a high earning career. If you responded that you weren’t sure, that was a good answer, because the question is a surprisingly complex one and highly personal too. This article will review some of the key considerations you need to take into account before reaching your decision. Note: See our 2011 article, “10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Taking Social Security“.

First, to recap: For people born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66 (for people born earlier it is few months younger; or older if you were born in a later year). If you were in born in 1946 and elect to start receiving your benefits this year (2011), you will get 93.3% of the monthly benefit you would receive if you waited until age 66. If you delay taking benefits even longer (until a maximum of age 70), you will receive 8% more for each year you wait. You have the option of starting your benefits at age 62, although it will be reduced by 25% of the benefit paid at age 66. The longer you wait (up until age 70), the more you get.

We’re Living Longer
Part of the reason why so many experts advocate waiting to start your benefits has to do with our increased longevity. The average life expectancy at birth is 78; it was 63 when Social Security started. The average life expectancy (78) is the break-even point – if you live to the average age it doesn’t matter whether you started collecting your benefits early or late – the amount you get will work out to be the same. However, if you live longer, waiting to collect your benefit will net you more money. The chances are that you will live longer too, because by the time you reach 65 your life expectancy is 82 if you are a man and 85 if you are a woman. People who are married live even longer. And even if you start to collect before full retirement age and you die before your average life expectancy, you still might not have gotten ahead of Uncle Sam. That’s because if your spouse lives a long life he or she will get reduced benefits based on your early distribution decision.

Spousal Strategies
Deciding when you and your spouse start taking benefits is one of the most complicated questions. That depends in part on whether either or both of you were high earners. In general, high earners should wait. In a situation where the husband was a relatively low earner, he might want to start taking benefits early and specify that the high earning spouse delay benefits. That way the higher benefits accruing to the higher earning spouse are preserved, but the couple can start getting some social security income in the door to help with living expenses. The lower earning spouse will get a step-up to 50% of their spousal benefit when the higher earning starts to collect at full retirement age, although it will be reduced somewhat because of the decision to start taking benefits early. The Schwab article in the “Further References” section below discusses the “62/70″ rule.

Working = Delay
If you are working you definitely should think about delaying your benefits for several reasons. For one, if you make more than the minimum of $14,640 before you reach full retirement age, your benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 you make over the minimum. In the year you reach your Full Retirement Age the benefit reduction is $1 for every $3 earned up to $38,880. For another reason, the longer you work the more your maximum payment will be, up to age 70. Your “primary insurance amount” (PIA) is based on your highest 35 earning years, so it is in your interest to drop off lower earning years (like those on your first job).

On the other hand, it might not make any sense to delay taking your benefits if you really need the money. Better to take a reduced benefit and stay afloat than to lose your home or not have enough to eat. If your increased benefit drives your total income over $85,000/single or $170,00/jointly you will have to pay higher Part B premiums, as Old Nassau points out.

No More “Do-Overs”
One of the best articles we have ever seen on when to take social security benefits is “How to Hike Your Social Security Benefits“, just written by Robert Powell of Wall Street Journal MarketWatch. In his article Powell points out the demise of the so-called “Do-Over” strategy. This option, which previously allowed social security recipients to start collecting early and then cancel and re-register at full retirement age, paying the earlier benefits back with no interest, has been discontinued.

Powell also has a very helpful discussion about when high and low earners should start taking their benefits, including strategies for married people.

More Resources
Social Security COLA increase set for 2012
When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits from the Social Security Administration is also extremely helpful.
Another is the Center for Retirement Research’s “Social Security Claiming Guide“.
Schwab has an excellent guide that explains some of the more complex strategies for claiming social security benefits.
2 Part Series: What You Think You Know About Social Security Might Hurt You

What do you plan to do?
As always, you should carefully research this question and consult with your accountant and/or financial advisor before making an important decision like this. Please let us know your strategies and questions for taking social security in the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on January 24th, 2011


  1. Waiting until at lease 66 or your age for full retirement is great and keep on working, but you must also take into consideration what your Medicare Parts B & C are going to cost you if you work past age 65 and earn over the $85,000.00 mark. The increased cost of the Medicare Insurance you are required to take make not equal out the amount earned and the benefit you receive from working later such as to age 70. Medicare costs are rarely mentioned until you have to apply for and receive the premium notice. The cost also seems to rise much more rapidly than inflation, 18% raise in 2010? Just something everyone needs to be aware of and should certainly look into when you reach that 65 mark.

    by Robert Walters — January 25, 2011

  2. I started at 62, biggest mistake of my life

    by Judith — January 26, 2011

  3. For the widows out there (or anyone married for more than 10 years, not remarried whose ex-spouse has died). You have the option of taking your late spouse’s social security at 62 and delaying taking your own until age 70, at which point it will be much higher. I rarely see this mentioned and I believe many women need to know this.

    by Ann — January 26, 2011

  4. Taking it at 62 was the right choice for me. I lost my job when I was 60. Was looking for a new one and had several very good prospects when my 89 year old mother’s health had a rapid decline. Until then she had been living in an independent living retirement community. Choice was move her into an assisted living facility or with me. I moved her in with me and being her full time caretaker became my job. She passed away at 90. When 62 came around I had to decide on retirement at 62 or wait four more years. I did the math. How much retirement income would I receive for four years vs. what my retirement income would be at 66 and how long would it take to make up the difference if I waited until 66. After much research, discussions with my financial advisor, I chose 62. In light of the economic turndown and unemployment over the past few years (I just turned 64), it was a good decision for me. My advice is do your homework.

    by Karen — January 26, 2011

  5. Judith: Interested in why you say it was the biggest mistake of your life taking SS at age 62.

    by Cathy — January 26, 2011

  6. Mathematically, the lines comparing amounts of money received do not cross until you reach 73 years of age. What this means is that if you start collecting at 62, and your twin sister waits until 66 years, when you reach 73, you would have both collected the same amount of money from SS. But, you would have had four more years of retirement to enjoy.

    Personally, I retired at 63 and am glad I did.

    by bruce — January 26, 2011

  7. Cathy: I had been laid off from my full time position and only worked part-time. Could not find full time employment and decided to take my Social Security as a supplement. Little did I know and was not properly informed that this amount stays the same forever. I finally found full time employment and because I was making too much in that full time job (which would make someone laugh at the amount) I was making more than I should while collecting so now little by little I pay back my overage to Social Security. DO NOT TAKE at 62 unless you are able to work part-time, can stay under the amount allotted by Social Security and can survive which is almost impossible today. Think first, don’t panic!

    by Judith — January 26, 2011

  8. At 64 3/4 I was laid off from a good paying career job. The prospects of me landing a decent job now are slim. My goal is to survive off of unemployment and my IRA savings until I reach my “full” SS retirement benefit at 66. Many of my friends have opted for the 62 payout but the reduction in funds makes one pause. This article is correct in suggesting a full financial review before making this important decision.

    by Douglas — January 26, 2011

  9. I have a history of cancer. No one in my family has lived much past 80. What’s not to like about drawing at 62?

    by Sharon — January 26, 2011

  10. My wife and I started taking our Social Security at 62 and it is the best thing we ever did. In our case we both also receive a pension. Instead of living off of our investments we are able to put them to work. With the economy ready to take off again, our net worth continues to grow. If I live longer than 78 and don’t make as much from Social Security, I more than make up for it with what I am accruing in personal wealth. And the likelihood that I live longer than 78 is better since I’m not worrying about depleting my wealth and not getting my Social Security.

    by Gary Wester — January 26, 2011

  11. Great advice from Judy, and Bruce’s math does not compute. I am a certified financial planner and have assisted about 35 elderly with this complex issue and only 1 of the “early starters at 62″ is still happy with that decision several years down the road. The correct “crossover” age was stated in the article. It is age 78…has always been and will remain so. It makes no sense to start early unless one’s health is very poor or they have accumulated so litte money by 62 that they have no choice (bills, mortgage etc) Most folks don’t know that for every year they delay after age 66 (until 70) gets them an absolute guaranteed 8% boost EVERY year for those 4 years. And because your payments by then will be so much larger, the annual COLA raise (parden the last 2 years) is also substantially larger because it’s applied to the larger monthly payments. As T Rowe Price’s top retirement planner , Christine Fahlund CFP, explained Monday on the Morningstar Retirement Portfolio seminar just this past monday, those who make it just to their own normal life expectancy will roughly make TWICE as much money as the early starters. If you make it into your 90′s, you will greatly appreciate the much larger payments as your health care costs will rise substantially in your final years. Listen to the free Morningstar webcast (1 hour long and is spectacular) at http://www.morningstar.com/cover/videocenter.aspx?id=367443

    by Allan — January 26, 2011

  12. Ann mentioned “widows”. Also need to factor in divorce, even if both spouses are alive. If the woman has not remarried, she might be better off taking her own SS at age 62, then switching to the ex-husband’s benefit at age 66, if he is a much higher earner. Or the reverse might be better. Again, seek information and advice before making any decision.

    by Sandy — January 26, 2011

  13. I am 62. I ran the numbers for me out to 2034 (which is beyond my life expectancy according to the government). If I start taking SS this year (which I will) compared to waiting till I am 66, I would get a total of $49,932 more by waiting. If I wait till I am 70 I would get $77,592 more. BUT … That does take into account the present value of money. Given that I get the monthly benefit now and for 4 more years till I hit 66, that additional $50K will be more than eaten up by inflation.

    by John — January 26, 2011

  14. You should also remember that SS benefits are calculated based upon a TOTAL payout. And, if you do work again before you reach 66, your benefits will be recalculated when you reach 66 and you will get the benefit of those earnings.

    by John — January 26, 2011

  15. Judy: Thanks for the explanation and also to others who have commented. My spouse is already retired for 11 years with a pension and will start taking SS at 62 (end of this year), and his pension does not get reduced (some pensions reduce the benefit by the amount received from SS once you start receiving it). I will have a modest pension when I retire (benefit was frozen last year) and also have 401(k) monies. My situation nearly mirror’s that of Gary’s. Still have three more years before age 62 but am trying to prepare.

    by Cathy — January 26, 2011

  16. Some of us do not have a choice. My husband was forced in to early retirement due to the economy and his pension plans requires us to take Social Security at 62. Otherwise we will lose half of our monthly income. This should always be taken into account if you are receiving a pension.

    by Peggy G — January 26, 2011

  17. The last time I checked, and it’s been quite some time now, the actuarial table for a male indicated that if you start collecting at age 62, after 7 years you will have collected about an equal amount to that of 65 years of age. And the longer you live the better off you will be.

    by belleboy — January 26, 2011

  18. It is a relatively simple math problem. You need to find your ‘break-even’ point where the total amount of money you get by enrolling early before you die will equal the total amount of money you get by delaying your enrollment until your death.

    If you enroll at age 62 and die before your break-even point you ‘make’ money. If you enroll at age 62 and die after your age at the break-even point, Z, you ‘lose’ money.

    Your choice whether to enroll in social security at 62 or at a later date really is dependent on how long you think you will live.

    I decided, personally, that based on my health and family history that I would not live or live much past my break-even point so I enrolled at age 62. I am past my break-even point now so I gambled and lost. I am happy about that to be sure. My wife, who is quite a bit younger than I, will probably live into her 90s and since we do not need the money she will not enroll until age 66 or 67 so she will get full benefits for her entire life after 66 or 67. If she was in poor health or we felt she would die early (before her break-even point) for whatever reason she would have enrolled earlier.

    Preparing for retirement is easy: SAVE EVERY PENNY YOU POSSIBLY CAN and put it where it is safe and will grow. You cannot live on SS alone.

    by Mad Jayhawk — January 26, 2011

  19. Mad Jayhawk, you hit the nail on the head; it’s an individual decision based on your health!
    That’s exactly why I decided to take mine at 62 as I had some health issues.
    My wife is a little older than me and started collecting half of mine at that time as well. She was stay at home mom with not enough credits on her own.
    Also, because I have been receiving a pension since retiring at 57, the added income requires more taxes at the end of the year for which we have to pay quarterly.
    If I had waited to collect till 66 it would have added even more to our taxes.
    62 was the right number for us

    by Van — January 26, 2011

  20. This is all fine and good, if you have one wit of confidence that the central government is going to be fluid in as little as 10 years.
    at the rate the government is printing money and and crashing the dollar as the worlds reserve currency, continuing to spend instead of cut, borrowing against our children and childrens children’s earnings, we will not be solvent very much longer, I say, grab what you can and try to recoup what little you can from what has been extracted from you by the power of the central government.
    juuuust sayin……

    by Vernonw — January 26, 2011

  21. Impossible to know for sure when to start SS, because
    (1) Your state of residence. Does it tax SS? 36 do not do not, but, given the present disastrous economy, several could start.
    (2) Your income. Will SS push you into higher tax brackets? Maybe not now, but who knows what future brackets will be.
    (3) Drawing SS increases not only your taxes, but, when you enroll in Medicare, your monthly medicare premiums. Less than $85k = $96.40. But raises to $154, $221, $287, or even $353, depending on your total (not just taxable) income.
    Just more reasons to wait. Keep your head, and income, down.

    by oldnassau — January 26, 2011

  22. We took early retirement (ages 56 and 58) so we had our life scaled back and were comfortable in our finances and budget well before we could take social security. It was like a bonanza when each of us reached age 62. Doing it over, we would make the same choice and take SS at age 62. Worked for us but then everyone’s finances and ability to scale back varies.

    by David M. Lane — January 26, 2011

  23. I share the same concerns as Vernonw and am nearly certain my spouse will take SS at age 62 since he has been retired for 11 years. My decision will likely depend more on how much I have in my 401(k) at the time and whether I work past 62.

    by Cathy — January 27, 2011

  24. If you can afford to retire now, then it doesn’t matter if you will get a bit more from SS by waiting. Do what works for you.

    I have been retired for 6+ years and took SS at 62. Currently my income is 42 percent pension, 38 percent SS, and about 20 percent IRA. This represents about 60 percent of my pre-retirement income.

    BTW: My mother is 96 and her medical expenses were $186 last year and mine were $108, both not including Medicare or insurance. Including insurance my medical expenses were less than 4 percent of income. For my mother they were a much higher percentage about 18 percent but then her income is on 100 percent SS.

    by Randy — January 27, 2011

  25. My percentages would work out quite similar to yours in terms of pension, SS and 401(k).

    by Cathy — January 27, 2011

  26. Excellent article!
    What the comments from your readers show is that there is no “one size fits all” regarding when to start your benefits. The range begins at age 62 (if you absolutely must have the money) to your full retirement age (or later) if you are still working.
    What is certain is that what worked for friends and relatives might not work for you. Everyone should make use of the resources and calculators on the Social Security web site at http://www.socialsecurity.gov to gather information about their particular situations. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision about when to take your benefits.
    John G. (former Social Security communications director)

    by John Garlinger — January 27, 2011

  27. I am retired military. My health cares are taken care of by the VA. I have also earned another retirement. I am presently employed in a job that will provide a retirement of about a thouand a month. She only has SS. My wife and I were both in a severe car accident in September. Our health is much worse than it was a year ago. We were planning on taking our SS at age 62. I am 59 and she is 57. Historically,her family usually passes away by age 75. My family usually lives longer, into their late 80s. Both of us have very stressful jobs. We both want to retire and enjoy life. If we retire and use my retirements and not our SS, our monthly income will be reduced about 25%. We are confused about what to do.

    by Dana — January 28, 2011

  28. Call me crazy…but personally, I don’t have much faith in our government doing the right thing. The government can’t balance its own budget. And, you can bet that what helps the government save money or postpone having to pay it out works for Uncle Sam..not you as an individual. What is also scary is the social welfare programs like SS which were sacred cows no longer are so. They are not off limits to governement meddling and “tweaking.” I just have an uneasy feeling that Uncle Sam is going to continue to make things difficult for the average “Joe” and will continue to try to balance the US budget on the backs of ordinary citizens. They will continue to push back elligibility retirement ages and may continue to drastically reduce or eliminate cost of living increase whenever they are so inclined or under some half-baked pretext. There may also be other possible unforeseen tactics used to further screw up or overhaul the system. Maybe, I might be a bit short-sighted and paranoid but my gut instinct tells me to take the money as soon as possible and run. Fortunately, having accumulated a reasonable amount of financial assets (if the market doesn’t tank again) and having a small pension makes this decision a little bit easier for someone like myself. As frequently mentioned, SS was never meant to be the sole source of anyone’s retirement income.

    by Artie — January 31, 2011

  29. The average life expectancy varies by whether you are male or female; asian, black, white, or hispanic; and family history. Assuming 78 years for everyone is not a good idea. check out the mortality rates by age, race, and gender at cdc.gov

    by Karen — February 2, 2011

  30. you can alway start collecting at ge 62, invest the money collect interest. then at age 66 pay back ss the monies and collect at the higher rate!

    by reet — February 2, 2011

  31. that way if you die after 3 years someone (spouse or children) at least have 3 yrs worth of ss $$ and if you live past 66 you can get the higher amt.

    by reet — February 2, 2011

  32. Sorry Reet, as the article mentions above, the ability to collect early and pay back has been eliminated. So if you start collecting early, you can’t go back on that decision any more. See the Robert Powell article on the subject: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-to-hike-your-social-security-benefits-2011-01-20

    by Admin — February 2, 2011

  33. I stopped working to take care of my parents, first my Dad, now my Mother. Being a care giver makes it impossible to work. I get a pension. I retired at 55 from my former job, worked part time jobs up until 2007. My question is, since I am no longer working, if I delay taking my SS until 66, will my benefits go up or stay at what I would have received at 62?

    by Debra — February 4, 2011

  34. [...] Note that how much you get depends on what age you intend to start taking it (see our article on when to start taking social security). – Investment income. This is the trickiest component. Many experts believe that you can safety [...]

    by » My Wife is Getting Worried…Will We Have Enough Money in Retirement? Topretirements — March 7, 2011

  35. When the time is coming close (age-62) to have the opportunity to collect your social security, please keep in mind one very important fact that most people do not take into consideration. If you are retired and apply for your social security at (66) years of age instead of (62) years of age, you will have to live or (survive) for approximately (12) years beyond age (66) just to catch-up for the money you lost by not collecting at age (62). Figure out the total amount of money you could collect between age (62) up to age (66). Now take the higher amount of money at age (66) and check the difference. It works out to approximately (12) years on average, that it will take you to make up the difference of the money you lost by not collecting at age (62). I believe that each individual must evaluate there own financial situation and decide what works best, either married or single. Many Americans do not have a pension other then social security and will depend on this money for survival. If you plan on working until age (66) and make a good salary, it could be better to wait for the higher amount. Also if a person or husband & wife have enough personal savings and investments and truly do not need the money for their survival, then it may be beneficial for someone in this bracket to wait for the higher amount. There is no “one choice that fits everyone”. It is critical to do your homework and research all the available information from Social Security Admin. and web-sites like this that give us the tools and knowledge to make an informed decision. Do not wait for the last minute to make your choice. Start your own personal evaluation at least one-year prior to age (62) and review all the factors that should proceed the choice that will benefit you the most. Also stay abreast of new laws and regulations regarding social security, so when the time comes to choose you will make an educated choice that will impact the rest of your life. Good luck to all !!!!!

    by Neil McGowan — March 9, 2011

  36. [...] further reference: When Should You Start Taking Your Social Security Benefits? Posted by John Brady on March 29th, 2011 Comments (0)  Email This Post Entries (RSS) and [...]

    by » It Does Pay to Work in Retirement Topretirements — March 29, 2011

  37. Can I receive my ss benefits & have it automatically stopped when my wages reach the allotted amount ($14,160.00) while I’m working full time?
    I was 62 in Apr but have not decided to file for ss benefits.

    by Harold — June 17, 2011

  38. [...] For further reference When Should You Start Taking Your Social Security Benefits? [...]

    by » Too Many Boomers Leave Money on the Social Security Table Topretirements — July 19, 2011

  39. [...] need the money you might have no choice but to start taking it early. See our article, “When Should You Start Taking Social Security“. This page shows the reduction of your benefit from age 62 to [...]

    by » Ten Things About Social Security You Need to Know Topretirements — October 17, 2011

  40. I’m 66 this year and filed in january, they will not deduct all what I earn these months before sept (BD). Question; When I start receiving ss retirement how long do i have to stop working before start working again, there should be no deductions and my income from ss should be increased year after year that I work correct?

    by Enrique — April 4, 2012

  41. Enrique, if you are 66 and that is your full retirement age, you may earn unlimited amounts and not be penalized if you are lucky enough to be employed. If this is the year you reach full retirement age, there is a limit, around $38,000, until you reach full retirement age.

    I encourage you to talk to the Social Security folks. I found them to be extremely helpful and very knowledgeable. Yes, you’ll have to hold for a while while you wait to talk to a representative, but it can be time well spent. Write down all your questions while you’re waiting.

    Editor’s note: Thanks so much Linda for helping out with this answer. It’s great when our members pitch in like this!

    by Linda — April 5, 2012

  42. I’m turning 63 in May but my full retirement age (to earn income without penalty) is 66. My wife is already retired and can provide a base income once we move to a 55+ community in FL. I looked at the two sources of income I can tap to supplement her base: my as-yet-untapped meager pension and my as-yet-untapped meager Social security. If I only tap one, I’d be better starting the pension and holding off until 66 on the Social Security. Just the 8% difference between taking SS at 65 or at 66 is 8 percent. Where else can I get 8% on my investment for a year. So if we can hold off and I can find part-time employment in FL (maybe doing taxes for H&R Block), great. If I need to choose between tapping pension or Social Security, better to take the pension while my SS grows.

    by Steve — April 6, 2012

  43. Steve:
    The 8% increase is great but you are giving up a full year of cash benefits to get the 8% increase. For instance, if your benefit at 65 is $1,000 per month and you benefit at 66 is $1,080 (8% more), then you are giving up $12,000 from age 65 to age 66 in cash benefits to get $80 per month more. The break-even age for you would be age 78.5. This is the $12,000 that you give up divided by $960 per year ($80 times 12 months) or 12.5 years past age 66. If you factor in the time value of the money it is even longer. You will be age 79-80 before you make back the money you gave up from 65 until 66.
    After age 80 you would actually make money.

    Your longevity crystal ball can only tell you if this is a good idea or not.

    Editor’s note: I think you have those figures about right. Here are a couple of other articles that shed more light on this. http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2012/04/02/what-older-workers-dont-know-about-social-security Plus, a wondeful chart that shows what you get compared to when you start taking the benefit – the actual numbers make it easier to understand. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505146_162-57393677/how-to-maximize-your-social-security-payouts/

    by ELF, CPA — April 7, 2012

  44. :cry: My wife and I are 65. I am entitled to full benefits for what I contributed…not a lot. My wife is not qualified. We are retired educators in Ct. Whwn I die my wife will not receive any of my benefits because of teacher’s state pension. Therefore I am going to claim SS when I turn 66 . Because of teacher pension penalty in state of Ct I will get only 40% of what would be full benefits!!!!!

    by peter — April 8, 2012

  45. Peter – Are you refering to your wife not having enough earnings quarters to qualify for Soc Sec benefits? Also, when you die, why would your wife NOT get your soc sec benefits (i.e., I cannot understand how a state pension would impact this)?. Again, if you begin soc sec payments @ age 66, I cannot see how your state pension would reduce it (or does somehow CT reduce *their* pension if one is getting soc sec … that sounds auwful, but who knows in this crazy world). Perhaps you (and others) may be in similar situation as myself and wife. “Mrs. Monk” is 10 years younger. I am 64. I may work until either 66 or 70. I do not really WANT to work until 70, but may do so so that when I die, she can take over my maximum benefits (and give up her lower one, which she will commence at age 67). She will probably outlive me by ~20 years, which could help her a lot (especially since my health benefits stop for her upon my death). Yes, I realize that we are fortunate to even have health bennies, but this would be a BIG impact on her. We are no nearly “rich” (other than in having each other, two great sons, and a grandchild!), but I would like to have SOME security in our older years. Perhaps ELF, or others, can input more. Also, thanks to editor for the two links.

    by Mad Monk — April 10, 2012

  46. monk
    yes sounds terrible but true..in ct my ss is penalized because of my teachers retiement!!and my wife who does not have enough quarters,will recive nothing after I die because her retiement from state teachers is more than ss would be!
    hopefully law will change!!

    by peter — April 11, 2012

  47. There are two laws which impact retirees receiving pensions based on employment for which they did not pay into Social Security. These are the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). You can read all about them on the Social Security website.

    by LS — April 11, 2012

  48. I have opers retirement from the state of Ohio, 20 years. I also have 25 years in SSN I will lose about
    40 % of my SSN when I retire, unless i work 5 more years in the private sector and get 30 years in SSN.

    by Don — April 11, 2012

  49. Yes, I will be screwed by WEP because I worked as a teacher for almost 20 years. I worked and paid into SS for about 31 years, but some of those years I did not earn enough to “count”.It doesn’t seem right that I would be penalized for teaching, and drawing a small retirement from that, when trying to collect my SS benefits. It makes no sense at all-I put the time in and paid; I have also received statements that show what I would get if I begin taking my SS at 62 and if I wait until I am 66, but that changes because of WEP. How is this remotely fair? Can anyone truly answer this?

    by diandto — April 12, 2012

  50. The Social Security calculation is complex and it would take all day to explain. However, in simple terms, it is a weighted formula which provides a relatively greater benefit to people who have not had a history of earning higher wages. SS uses your reported wages over 35 years to compute the benefit. If you were not paying into SS for the years when you were covered by a Government retirement system, then you did not have “substantial” earnings for those years. Thus, with no SS wages being reported, you would appear to be someone who was making little or nothing and thus your SS benefit would be computed to provide you a greater benefit. Congress realized that this was creating a “Windfall” for people who were receiving a Government pension because they were not actually low wage earners during their working years. Congress modified the SS formula in 1983 to eliminate the windfall in SS benefits for such people. Given current fiscal difficulty with SS, it is unlikely that Congress will be in any mood to change this law.

    by LS — April 13, 2012

  51. Social Security is a huge topic for discussion and everyone’s situation is unique. My point of view is from someone who has always paid the maximum amount required by law into the a system who will never be allowed to collect one cent. Admittedly I don’t need to collect Social Security but to repeat myself I paid in a lot more than most, will get nothing back and am happy to be so fortunate!

    The Windfall Elimination Provision (SSA Publication No. 05-10045) can be read here: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html#a0=6

    The rule reads simple enough if you earned a pension and didn’t pay or have to pay your Social Security taxes you get reduced benefits. As always check with your tax attorney and the IRS for accuracy.

    Lastly “fair” only applies to weights and measures. We all build our lives separately.

    by doug0613 — April 13, 2012

  52. doug0513-I am happy for you that you have enough and do not need SS. When one works for many years and pays into the system, well one should receive the benefits of SS. if that is not going to be the case, then don’t send letters out to future recipients as to what the recipient’s SS will be. Either all school districts need to pay into the system, I guess. Teachers, for whatever reason, seem to be always drawing the short straw. I don’t think one career has anything to do with another career and should be treated that way. Public servants seem to be the ones hit hardest with this…

    by diandto — April 14, 2012

  53. Has anyone lived ijn pensacola before?Wanting to retire there?

    by j labhart — April 14, 2012

  54. [...] further reference: It Pays to Work in Retirement When Should You Start Taking Your Social Security Benefits 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Taking Social Security Too Many Boomers Leave Money on [...]

    by » What You Think You Know about Social Security Could Hurt You – Part 1 Topretirements — April 24, 2012

  55. My mother retired at 62. Never worked again, not even part time. She had a very enjoyable retirement until she was about 73 or 74 and then became disabled and was not able to enjoy her retirement. I think about if she had waited until she was 70 she would not have had a lot of time to enjoy her retirement. You get paid more at 70 but what good is it if you have to sign it over to Medicaid to pay for your stay in a nursing home. I am 56 and am getting written up at work and I will do my darndest to do a good job and not get fired. I only have so much talent though. I am just trying to hang on until I’m 62. I will consider myself lucky if I’m able to FIND something to work at until then. Right now I’m looking into ways to support myself if I have to retire at 56.

    by gailh — June 22, 2012

  56. You get more if you retire at 70 but what good is it if you can’t enjoy it? How many quality years does a person have coming at the age of 70. Retiring at 62 will add 8 quality years in retirement.

    by zippy — June 22, 2012

  57. Good point, Zippy. My financial planner keeps going back and forth on this one. I’m 61 and 9 months and want to start collecting at 62. I don’t “need” the money as my teacher’s retirement pay and an annuity are enough, along with part-time teaching (just one comm. college course – but I want to give that up and start to really have fun!). My goal, besides a new car and a few trips, is to pay off my house in 5 or 6 years instead of the 12 that are left on my 15-yr. mortgage. I figure the interest saved will be worth the lower SSI payment. Tax break is not so much at just 3.9% interest. I’m single and want to spend ALL my money before I die (have two IRAs out there as well) – my 13 nieces and nephews can inherit $$$ from their parents.

    by Basil — December 17, 2012

  58. The right time is what is best for each person / couple. I recently retired at 62 and started SS to help make up for my lost income. My husband retired at 63.5 and did not take his. We were planning on taking his at 66 but recently reassesed the situation and decided to start at 65. We calculated it would take 13 years to make up the difference. Part of the decision was that we don’t want to use our investments until we have to, we want to be able to travel & have fun while we are still young & healthy.

    by Kathy — December 18, 2012

  59. We were discussing this today amongst some friends. And I read an article which said that for every month you postpone benefits past your FRA you pick up 2/3 of 1% so in my case if I postpone just 3 months after my B’day to the date I am scheduled to retire from my job, that is 2%. Another strategy would be to sign up and suspend, then draw on my wifes…unsure of the details there need to research that one.

    by Mark — December 18, 2012

  60. Waiting till 66 to start collecting gives your spouse better benefits…in the event you should die. Of course alot of other factors come into play…but the best way would to go to the SS site and review the artilces they have on when to start taking your benefit.

    by Russ — December 19, 2012

  61. Your best bet is to start taking it as soon as you can. I will be 62 and a half come 2-1-2013 and I will start drawing then. I am retiring then and will draw SSI with my pension. No one knows how much time you have before you can’t do things or your gone. Take it while your still able to go do things and enjoy yourselves. I know of to many people who are gone or disabled and can’t do what they want. You can’t take it with you…..

    by Roy W. — December 20, 2012

  62. I took my SS at 62 and never looked back. My husband was still working and we were doing well financially, but I took it for two reasons: 1)I wanted to be in the system (“grandfathered” as it were) in case the Republicans made good on their threats to means-test it, and 2) I read that over 60% of folks sixty-two and older had done the same. True, you get about 75% of what you’d pull at age 66, but do I know I’ll be here then? Do I know the program will be the same? And…since I can’t get insurance since my husband retired last summer, it just about covers our COBRA payment, which is not inexpensive. Everyone’s situation is different,but for me, it was the smartest move.

    by KimbeeJeanq — December 20, 2012

  63. Can a widow (not married for 10 years) receive benefits for her husband’s record when she reach retirement age?

    Editor’s Comment. You should talk with a representative from the Social Security office, but the answer is probably yes, assuming your husband had enough earned credits to qualify in his own right. We searched to see if there is some minimum time that a couple needs to be married before the survivor can collect SS retirement benefit on deceased spouse’s earning record, but could not find an answer. The has to be married 10 years requirement seems to have to do with the rights of divorced spouses. This link will give you more information.http://www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan/onyourown2.htm

    by susan — January 5, 2014

  64. I’ve been researching widows benefits too, and they are a blessing. I discovered after age 60, I was eligible to receive from 71.5% to 99.5% of my spouse’s benefit. The percentage adjusts when you apply, such as being set at 76.3% at if you apply at age 61, 78.6% if you apply at age 51 + 6 months, 79.4% at if you apply at 61 + 8 months, etc. The SS website has links to lots of info. As I understand it, it is possible to apply for widows benefits and defer receiving SS on your own record (if it is higher) until 66. If you’re still working though, widows benefits are offset by your other income, so you wouldn’t necessarily receive anything.

    It’s definitely a good idea to talk to a SS representative. After my spouse died this year, I called Social Security about the $255 death benefit. I was given an appointment to make a telephone application. In that telephone interview, the representative told me that the call is used to go through other benefits with the widow/widower. I was told, for example, that if I wanted widows benefits I should apply as soon as possible since they commence from the date of application, not from the death. The representative was very helpful. It’s a little bit of a safety net for me to know that if I get laid off before my chosen retirement date, I will be able to apply for widows benefits until I’m able to get SS on my own earning record.

    Just a note – the representative also told me that I would need a certified copy of the marriage certificate, birth certificates and a certified copy of the death certificate when I applied for widows’ benefits. I had to hunt down a certified copy of the marriage certificate, and pay a fee. It took awhile, so this is something that you might want to do if you don’t already have a copy in your records.

    by Sharon — January 6, 2014

  65. SS survivor benefits are not just for widows. Surviving husbands can collect them too, as long as your income requirements are met. In my case, I discovered this when I went to apply for my Ss retirement benefits at 62. I was informed that I could have been receiving survivor benefits at 60. At least I received a 12 month retroactive payment.

    by Bill Yoder — January 6, 2014

  66. My mother (who divorced my father in 80) never remarried and received her own SS when she was eligible. When my father died in 2001 she received widow/spouse benefits plus my father’s new wife receive benefits too. My mother’s benefits went from about $600 a month or less to $1200.

    by kathleen — January 6, 2014

  67. If you have the funds here is a strategy to think about. Hold off collecting social security until the eldest of the two spouses reaches the normal retirement age. File and suspend and the other spouse can draw the spousal benefit. Using funds from a (self-annuitized) 401K or 403B to help you get to the normal retirement age will draw down those funds but also will help when you need to take the required minimum distribution which is based on the value of your 401K or 403B account every year after age 70.5.this can hold down on income tax in later years. While there is no crystal ball you can get an idea of your personal longevity by looking at your family history. This may not work for you if your family history shows that you don’t have longevity in your family. Check out socialsecuritysolutions.com for a free analysis. NOTE: in order to use the file and suspend one of you needs to reach the normal retirement age.

    by jon — January 6, 2014

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