Rethinking the ‘When to Start Collecting Social Security’ Question

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

March 14, 2018 — A crisis will affect Social Security just 16 short years from now, and it has some experts rethinking their strategies for when to start taking Social Security. Instead of urging people to wait until age 70, some are recommending beginning at age 66.

The crisis
In 2034 the Social Security reserves are expected to be exhausted. With no reserves available, the only money available to pay benefits is what comes in from current worker and employer contributions into the program. Sadly, that won’t be enough; starting in 2034 there will only be enough coming in to pay 77% of scheduled benefits.

A new recommendation to think about
Mark Hulbert of Market Watch reported on the argument posed by Richard Band, editor of the Profitable Investing advisory service, in “Why it might be better to take Social Security at age 66 instead of 70“. To Band, the question of when to start taking the benefit hinges on your confidence in the federal government. The advisor, who is 66, facetiously wonders if anyone really believes Uncle Sam, saddled with a $20 trillion—and rapidly rising—national debt, will be able keep his Social Security promises.

Take the money and run
Bond thinks maybe the best idea is to take his Social Security at the Full Retirement Age (66 for people who are currently that old). Choosing the ‘take the money and run’ strategy now instead of at 70 would give him four more years of benefits at promised levels. To test his theory he ran a cost-benefit analysis that shows a modest advantage if he starts collecting at 66. If a person now 66 makes it to the average life expectancy (84), he would only have had 2 years with a reduced benefit. The younger you are now, the stronger the argument for taking the benefit at 66 rather than 70. That is because you more likely to live past 2034 and therefore have more years getting only 77% of what you were promised.

Washington – you have a problem
The Social Security problem has been coming for years, but as every month goes by without action, the fix gets harder and harder. Potential solutions abound. Lawmakers could start making small benefit cuts now, eliminate or reduce the COLA formula, make 100% of compensation eligible for FICA taxes, raise the eligible age to collect, and/or increase the contributions. Tapping the debt-laden general treasury to fund the deficit seems highly unlikely. Every solution means pain for some beneficiary, as well as angry constituents. But Congress can’t even pass a budget, much less want to hop on the third rail that Social Security represents.

No politician would vote to cut Social Security for fear of being tarred and feathered. As the crisis gets nearer, however, Congress has another option. Just ignore the problem and let it happen. Instead of risking their careers by solving the problem, they can do what they do best – do nothing, then start an investigation and blame the other party!

The old argument for waiting to age 70
Most of our Members know that Topretirements has had a consistent, against the grain, philosophy on this issue – we think you should wait as long as you can to start taking your benefit. But, shocker! – we are rethinking that position based on the 2034 crisis.

Only 2% of men delay their Social Security benefits until age 70 (the percentage of women is slightly higher, but both rates are disappointing). We have always recommended waiting, predicated on five main conditions/reasons:
– You have no reason to believe you AND your spouse will die before the breakeven age of about 82
– You don’t need the money to live on
– Your benefits increase by 8% every year you wait past the age of 62 (you get 32% more at age 70 than you would at 66)
– Even if you die relatively early your spouse will get all of your higher benefit for life
– Because the benefit is indexed for inflation, you’ll get more dollars because your base is higher.

Bottom line
The decision on when to start your Social Security benefits is complicated and highly personal. You have to make your own decision based on what you and your advisors think. Although not convinced yet, we are warming to the idea of starting at 66 instead of 70, particularly for people who haven’t turned 66 yet.

What can you do
Recent history makes it clear our politicians lack the courage to do anything. This issue is a big deal for every American, born and unborn. We are not advocating a free ride for anyone, and we don’t want to throw our children and grandchildren to the wolves to protect our own benefits. But something has to be done that is equitable to everyone. We recommend contacting your congressional representatives and asking specifically what they are going to do to fix the problem.

Comments? Are you worried about Congress failing to act and thus facing a big benefit cut in 2034? Does this affect your claiming strategy? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
The Can That Keeps Getting Kicked Down the Road – Social Security Fixes
Full Social Security Trustees 2016 Report


Posted by Admin on March 14th, 2018


  1. An interesting question, to be sure. However, and with all due respect to financial wizards who are rethinking their advice and strategies, doesn’t it seem reasonable to presume that if SS benefits are cut in 2034, they will be cut proportionately across the board?

    My thinking: Let’s suppose that at age 66 my FRA was $1000 per month. If cut to 77% in 2034, those benefits would dwindle to $770 per month, yes?

    Now let’s suppose that I opted to wait until age 70 before collecting. My benefits would be $1320 per month. At 77% in 2034, those benefits would be whittled down to $1016 per month.

    Instead of a bump of $320 per month by delaying benefits, I’d be seeing $246. Still a 32% gain over the reduced $770, correct?

    by JCarol — March 14, 2018

  2. JCarol, that was exactly my first thought. I would rather take a reduction on a higher rate. I will be 66 in a few months and long ago decided to wait until I am 70 before collecting benefits. I did an analysis and if I remember correctly, breakeven is at age 81 or so which would be just before 2034. I’m sticking with age 70 unless someone can show me a compelling reason why this reasoning is flawed. It will be interesting to see what subsequent commenters have to say.

    by Mark McElhinny — March 14, 2018

  3. I don’t understand why people don’t seem to understand that if you live long enough and start collecting at age 62 you will reach the break even point around age 82 years old. Not too many people live to 100 these days. At the break even point you will have collected as much as if you waited till age 70 to start.

    From age 62-66 at $1,640 I would collect $78,720

    From age 62-70 at $1,640 I would collect $157,440.

    The person collecting more money, lets say $2,300 a month by waiting till age 70 would take 5.7 years to catch up but in the mean time I have collected another $112,076. I am now 76, so are they. I have collected a total of $269,880 at this point and the person who waited till age 70 to start would have still only collected $157,320. This of course doesn’t take into consideration cost of living raises, etc. Also realize that if they live longer they WILL collect much more in the long run. But life expectancy is age 81 if you live in Hawaii.

    I am in the take it as soon as you can club and hope for the best.

    I do understand if you have no savings your best bet is to keep working and take the bigger check to survive.

    by Louise — March 14, 2018

  4. Currently age 65 1/2 and not yet collecting SS, I’ve done the same math as Louise (several times) and come to the same conclusion (every time). Why would I forego good money earlier, particularly when tomorrow is promised to no one, and wait until age 70? Sure, I may live to 100, but if so I will have had significantly more money at a younger and presumably more active, healthier age and thus better able to enjoy it while planning for a less active existence 15-16 years hence. I’m open to being persuaded otherwise but all the financial gurus I’ve read on the subject haven’t made much headway with me. They simply can’t deny the math. The thought that, should I live to 81 or so (my actuarial death age) my benefits will be cut 33%, should that be Congress’s “fix”, doesn’t bother me.

    by John Marshall — March 14, 2018

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with Louise. I took my SS at age 62. Why? I did the math. It would take me until age 82 to break even with the amount of money I would NOT have received if I waited just 4 years to age 66. I think all of those “financial experts” who urge you to wait until age 66 (or later) must work for the government. They are hoping your will die before they have to pay out. And that is exactly what will happen if you die first. You paid into the SS system all your working years, why not get something back? Also, get it back while you are still young enough to enjoy it, instead of spending it all for medical costs. Just do the math. You will be surprised.

    by Mike — March 14, 2018

  6. I think many people advocating for early as possible taking SS are missing the big arguments for delaying. Particularly since half of retirees don’t have enough money to retire on, if you can possibly get by without it, why risk living in poverty in your old age to get a few more dollars in early retirement. If breakeven is 81 or 82, you are going to lose out if you live to the average life expectancy (82.7 for men, 85.3 for women). That is only the average. About half of folks will live longer than that – many of them MUCH longer. And if they don’t their surviving spouse probably will. Lets say you or your spouse live to 90, you will have missed on a lot of money.

    by Ken — March 14, 2018

  7. JCarol and Mark…you aren’t including (in the example JCarol gives) the $48,000 you have forgone by waiting. This is similar to the point Louise is making. You may end up better eventually but your breakeven point will be at a much older age with the reduction. In other words it will take longer to make up that $48,000. An example, similar to what you have done, but considering that will show you this impact.

    I won’t comment on taking earlier versus later or whether there will be a “Gray Revolution” if the government tries to cut back 🙂 but so many people need the money it is a small percentage who even have the luxury of deciding. If you are someone who has large IRAs or 401ks and has to pay taxes on those withdrawals (mandatory at 70 1/2 for now) and then on some of your SS you may look differently at the situation. And if those amounts start kicking you into higher Medicare Premiums you have another layer of complexity. So everybody needs to do what they think is best for them.

    by Mejask — March 14, 2018

  8. I’ve read all of the comments so far and I am still in favor of delaying. However, some excellent points have been made that I didn’t mention. First, I do have substantial 401k and IRA assets; not as much as I might like but certainly more than average. I have those assets because I have lived a modest lifestyle that I am quite comfortable with and am quite content to continue. I plan to retire early this summer about the time I turn 66. I have plenty to sustain me until I’m 70 with plenty left over. By drawing down retirement funds “early”, I am reducing my tax liability once I start taking SS. Break even is in late 2032 or early 2033, before the potential reductions. Many of my ancestors, including my mother, lived well into their 90s, so I figure I have a better than even chance of doing the same. By the time I run out of savings I’ll probably be plenty old enough for the increased SS to be sufficient… and if the 2034 scenario comes to pass, as mentioned before, the reduction will be on a higher rate. If I were to pass before break even, I really don’t think I will be worrying about whether I got my fair share or not.

    by Mark McElhinny — March 14, 2018

  9. Mejask, I understand the point that you, Louise, and several others are making, but that’s a decision that people have been making using those arguments irrespective of 2034 possibilities.

    Agreed Louise that the $48K would be deferred until after age 70, but that $48K would be distributed in higher benefits over 12.5 years from ages 70 – 82. As Ken pointed out, chances are good that at least one spouse will live past age 82. (In DH and my case the chances are excellent since all of our parents lived past 90 and two are still alive and quite healthy at 92 and 95.) In the meantime people who defer do indeed have to self fund their retirement or continue working.

    In any event, the thrust of this article has to do with “experts” possibly revisiting the widely advocated strategy of waiting until age 70 because SS benefits may be cut in 2034. I use quotations because I’ve found most financial advisers dispense wisdom that quite handily lines their own pockets. Whether that advice is sound for their clients often seems to be of secondary consideration.

    There are other filing SS strategies that aren’t discussed in this blog post or comment string, but are mentioned here:

    If you haven’t read that post or comments, I highly recommend doing so.

    by JCarol — March 14, 2018

  10. Also this one:

    by JCarol — March 14, 2018

  11. I hear stories that there are ways for individuals to collect social security benefits after having paid little or nothing into the system. Are these stories fact or fiction? If true, what would be the impact on the system if there was some sort of minimal requirement to obtain benefits at full rates or reduced rates. All with the intent of saving the system from bankruptcy.

    by Tim Bauer — March 14, 2018

  12. Another thing to look at too is let’s use my previous numbers. If I start at age 62 and draw $1640 per month for 8 years. I am now 70 years old and have drawn $157,440.

    If I decided not to start taking SS till age 70, and I retired at age 62, I would have to draw out of IRA’s for those 8 years and that money is gone forever. ($19,680 per year times 8 years = $157,440)

    If I take SS at age 62 this will delay touching the IRA money thus letting it grow. Also, if you have children and wish to give them an inheritance, you will have used SS money and preserved your nest egg for them. You can’t get money from SS if you are dead and your children can’t get back payments. The survivor spouse is the one who will benefit from the larger check if you wait to collect SS and then die. But then you have to hope the survivor spouse lives long enough to collect and get to the break even point of around age 82. It is all a gamble.

    by Louise — March 15, 2018

  13. Louise – totally agree with you. I would rather keep current savings to continue investing it and take the SS money before age 70.

    by JoannL — March 15, 2018


    by JoannL — March 15, 2018

  15. I just retired at 65. My first check for February will arrive next week. I decided to collect widow’s benefits, which are a few hundred dollars less than my own benefit (I’ll get close to the max that is payable for full retirement age at 66). My plan is to reevaluate my health and finances once or twice a year, and switch to my higher benefit when the math looks right. I think it’s unlikely that I’ll defer all the way to 70, even with the 8% return for delaying. One of the problems with delaying collecting Social Security is that you’re spending your own money while waiting. Assume that John Doe would collect $2,000 per month from Social Security, but decides to defer to Age 70. John Doe will use $24,000 of his own money each year while waiting. That is money that he won’t have in his own account for an emergency, and can’t leave to his wife or kids someday. I think I’d rather keep more of my own money rather than deplete my assets in the hope that I’ll collect more money from Social Security in the future.

    As an extra warning, read everything that Social Security sends you! I applied for benefits in my local office, instead of on-line. I also hand-delivered the SSA-44 form, to avoid paying the premium for Medicare Part B higher-wage individuals after retirement.

    In the last two months, I’ve received 4-5 letters from Social Security giving me completely amounts for my benefit. None of the amounts matched the amount that I was told I’d receive when I was in my local office. I’ve spent four hours on the phone lately with representatives. Not only was the widow’s benefit calculated incorrectly, but Social Security then deducted some Medicare payments for months when I was 64. Social Security has just deposited a “correction” check into my bank account this month, although my first check won’t arrive until next week. I assume that eventually this will all settle down, but be prepared for some confusion when getting started!

    by Kate — March 15, 2018

  16. Louise, just a few things to keep in mind. You must take your mandatory payouts from you IRA at age 70.5 and depending on that situation could put you in a different tax bracket. The other is it would be hard to get an 8% return year in and year out in the market by not using IRA funds. 8% is hard to find these days in any investment, but that is what delaying SS would give you.

    by Bruce — March 15, 2018

  17. Hi Kate: I am now 63.5 and decided to now collect Social Security and supplement with a part time job that pays under the limit allowed for early retirees. My job was eliminated at a Church where I was the Administrative Assistant. It was hard to find a full time job at my age. I get my first SS check on March 28. If I find a full time job that pays well enough, I can let SS know and they will suspend my benefits and recalculate my benefits since I would be paying back into the system again. I did not want to do this…I fully hoped to collect at 70 BUT life intervened. I also did not want to deplete my savings so I took the SS benefits. I also have to pay for my own insurance now until I reach 65, a year and a half from now. I chose Christian Healthcare ministries a sharing type of plan–and will use them as my secondary insurance when I do go on Medicare. While the government want us all to work to 70, many cannot for various reasons and they do precious little to help us retain or obtain new jobs when you are my age. I got severance for only two months and had to sign an agreement that I would not sue them for age discrimination.

    by Jennifer — March 15, 2018

  18. Bruce, you are right about successfully making 8% a year in IRA investments and you are also right on the taxation of the IRA funds when you are forced to take required minimum distributions (RMD) at 70.5 years old. I already have an inherited IRA I must take RMD’s on and get taxed 5% State and 15% Federal tax. Right now I am on Obamacare and have to keep income low to receive the subsidy and not fall off the income cliff. Our income is low enough where we got all our money back from State and Fed. Hub will have to start collecting RMD’s in 4 1/2 years and I will have to in 5 1/2 years.

    People could also consider moving to a tax friendly state like Georgia.

    Many considerations to think about collecting SS. It would be a perfect world if we knew how long our lives would be then we could plan better! LOL!

    by Louise — March 15, 2018

  19. Interesting article, JoannL. I’m not surprised. Twice at local SS offices I have been told I can not delay taking my retirement benefit if I take survivor benefits. Also, I will be curious what the actual $ benefit will be for the survivor benefit, because I’ve been told 3 different numbers which differ greatly. When to file? Everyone’s situation is different. I plan to put off collecting my retirement benefit and file for survivor benefit when I retire later this year. Hopefully I won’t have to dip into 401k, as I also have a state pension.

    by Kay — March 15, 2018

  20. Well thank God I started collecting my SS this past August at the age of 62…..I had been caregiver of my mother who passed away 3 weeks ago from Dementia and if I hadn’t had that extra money in savings I would not have been able to continue paying on her condo….and lost it in foreclosure. I have no 401k savings and I need to probate the property so I can live a retirement without having to rely on government benefits…..I couldnt continue to work and take care of her…yes I’m earning less than 800 per month but being able to keep her at home and out of a nursing home and also not losing the family home was the best decision that I could have made….

    by Mary11 — March 15, 2018

  21. My condolences on the loss of your dear mother, Mary. My mother also had dementia so I know what a difficult slog that can be.

    Based on your comments at TR, you cared for her for quite some time. I hope that things work out well for you. Are you still planning a move to OR?

    by JCarol — March 15, 2018

  22. Mary11:
    Will you still go to the Oregon coast? I may end up there myself to be near my brother and his wife. He had a stroke in Feb 2017 and luckily had recovered most of hos short term memory ..which was the only problem. Physically he is fine. The really would like it if I came out there and I just spoke to a Realtor last night. Affordability is the key.
    I am sorry for your lost. You had to take SS early…no doubt about it….in your situation, many would have made the same hard choices.

    by Jennifer — March 15, 2018

  23. There will be a funding crisis for Social Security in 16 years. Count on politicians to do two things. First, Social Security recipients who are receiving large payouts should expect to be means-tested. If you are drawing a large monthly SS payment (say, $3K or more), expect to have your Social Security check cut in half. Second, if you are drawing a small monthly SS payment (say, $1K or less), expect the politicians to boost your monthly Social Security check to $1K. Those with a monthly Social Security check between $3K and $1K will lose from 50% to 0% on a sliding scale. These changes will be done in the name of “equity”. Anyone who maxes out their check by waiting until age 70 to collect and who doesn’t think this paints a great big target on their back is seriously deluding themselves.

    by Earl Wingrove — March 15, 2018

  24. I just retired at 59 (yes I know, early) partly for health reasons but also kind of forced out.
    Now have a part-time job and a small pension and decent (not great) 401k (rolled-over to IRA) and a separate small IRA.
    Live in a high-tax, high cost of living state (NY) but plan on moving to Florida shortly.
    I want to begin collecting SS at 62 in spite of the lowered benefits.
    Any suggestions or ideas anyone?

    by Curt — March 15, 2018

  25. Thank you JCarol and Jennifer……yes it looks like we will be moving to the coast of Oregon once we sell our condo. We are very interested in Brookings. It has the lowest crime rate in the state and you can purchase a cabin style Mfg home that overlooks the Pacific Ocean for less than $100,000. Square footage is about 800 but I will be downsizing so that’s ok. It’s only 10 mi from the CA border too. One thing though trying to find a hospital with more than 25 beds on the coast can’t be found. Oh well I’ve lived in all 4 corners of the US and still haven’t found the perfect place so ….good luck in your search Jennifer too!! I was thinking of going inland for a while but they have a much higher crime rate. You can always take a weekend to the largervtowns if you want to dfo your major shopping. I order almost everything online so I won’t be missing my mall. If any have questions on Oregon I’m here for you. I LIVED IN Portland for several years but it’s too expensive now and we want to start fresh somewhere new too….

    by Mary11 — March 15, 2018

  26. Hi Mary11, I am looking in a gated community now on the beach which I can afford, but I do not want to feel isolated and that is the rub. I would have to use a car on the Oregon coast, the weather from Nov-June is rain and mist from what I have been told by someone who lives in Eugene. Here in DC I can walk to everything, even a part-time job I just started. Social Security should help me. My benefits are OK, but I need extra income to pay for the health insurance and other things. The maximum payout per the SS representative here in DC and again in Kansas City,, MO is $2600 or so this year, 2018, NO ONE is getting $3,000 a month for an individual benefit. My own earned benefit is more than half of my ex husbands and he made a six figure income, so I was advised not to consider that option. We were married for fifteen years. I am looking for security in a possible home in Oregon. I am a former nurse and into alternative medicine. I am not sure about health care at the Beach…checking it out.

    by Jennifer — March 15, 2018

  27. To clarify Jennifer’s comment about the maximum retirement, it is possible to get well over $3000/month. Although very few people made enough in their careers to get it, it is there. This is from the Motley Fool:
    – At full retirement age (66 for people at least that age now) is $2,788 per month, or $33,456 per year (in 2018)
    – By waiting until age 70 to claim the maximum possible monthly Social Security retirement benefit is $3,680, or $44,162 per year.

    by Admin — March 15, 2018

  28. I retired at 64 and I am turning 69 soon I have not started my SS yet and I will wait until I am 70. The SS office showed me where I will get over $40,000 a year. My wife is younger and we can live on what she makes. Plus I also have a part time job that pays about $30,000. I think I getting the 8% bump each year is a great deal

    by Jim — March 15, 2018

  29. The Social Security Office in Washington DC gave me the information I posted. Not sure the Motley Fool is correct. I also spoke with Social Security in Kansas City and this year 2018 they are NOT paying out $3,000 in benefits to anyone. Admin may be looking at possible future benefits, I am talking about current levels.

    Comment from Admin: Sorry Jennifer, whoever is giving you that information from SS is just plain wrong. Maybe they are referring to your situation. We just used the SS Retirement Income Calculator and here is what they say the benefit is for someone turning 70 THIS YEAR, and making $100,000 a year (yes, that is a lot, only a small percentage of people earned enough to get a benefit over $3000/month).

    Your Retirement Benefit Estimate
    The age that you start your benefits determines how much you receive each month.

    We created estimates for you using your earnings information. You can also add your own custom estimates by changing your stop work age and future earnings.

    If you start your benefits:
    And you earn an average of:
    Your benefit will be about:
    At age 70
    $100,000 a year
    (from now until age 70)
    $3,673 a month


    by Jennifer — March 16, 2018

  30. Jim I am happy for you. I too thought I would be waiting until 70 to collect SS. It also helps to have a spouse bringing in extra income. If I find a job that pays well full time, then I will suspend my benefits and work again. SS said they will then recalculate my benefits. I am also working a part time job until July 1. Then I can see what transpires, I have been looking for a job that is full time. My part time job is adding to my skill set so I am hopeful.

    by Jennifer — March 16, 2018

  31. Good article but doesn’t consider yet another point of concern about our gov’t’s control of these funds. Under the previous administration they were aggressively pursuing ways to implement a means test for SS benefits. Meaning if you worked hard and saved diligently our lovely gov’t’s intent was to say you didn’t deserve SS and since we’re running out of money we’re cutting your benefit to give it to someone who failed to save like you did. Remember this is YOUR money they took from you supposedly to “save” it for your retirement – ha! While this effort seems to have lost some steam, I don’t trust politicians AT ALL, neither side. As a result we are taking our benefits at 62. We are planning to save every penny of the SS money we receive and invest it conservatively. I modeled this strategy and using very modest returns it would take us until our mid-90’s for the catch up to occur if we waited until 70 to take the money. I know many people can’t afford to save it all, but even if you save a portion you’ll still be much farther ahead. Don’t trust the gov’t! If you think this can’t happen just remember the lies about our healthcare, that we could keep our Dr’s, that we were going to save $2,500 a year. Instead my healthcare costs have increased 800%, my deductible 150%, and I lost my Dr and have crap care. They have already bankrupted SS, how can anyone of reasonable mind think they won’t screw up the handling of the 2034 mess any better than they have our completely screwed up healthcare system.

    by Dave — March 16, 2018

  32. The Motley Fool numbers are the same as the numbers in my latest statement from Social Security. I wondered if the age 70 forecast included the possiblity of inflation adjustments.

    by Kate — March 16, 2018

  33. Everyone needs to make their SS decision based on what works for them. I retired a few months after I turned 62 and started my SS then. Because I had a relatively low lifetime earnings, I did not lose much, $$ wise by starting early. My husband started his at 65 when we moved and bought a new house which increased our monthly expenses. We have substantial money in our investments and IRAs but wanted them to continue to grow instead of drawing them down as you never know what the market will do. We also felt like we needed more money when we are younger for travel and everything that goes along with a new home purchase. When we are older we will travel much less and stick closer to home. My husband will start his RMD this year and I will start mine in 2020. We have been pleased with our decisions so far. Again, everyone must make their decision based on what is best for them. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to SS.

    by Kathy Coaker — March 16, 2018

  34. I’m in the camp to take it early. We prefer to let our investment grow and draw down on it less. Our CPA advises the opposite. The only time we haven’t followed her advice. That said, everyone has their own particulars for their situation. We know we will reach an age where travel is no longer enjoyable and want to do that type of activity in the early retirement phase.

    by C — March 16, 2018

  35. Earl, would you be willing to cite some sources for the SS scenario you painted?

    Kathy, I totally agree with you and others who say that decisions about when to take SS should be reached on a case by case basis.

    My guess is that the SS debacle will be like most looming problems – the ultimate scenario will probably be better than most pessimists predict and worse than the optimists believe. I’ll further speculate that nobody has yet figured out what Congress might do to patch this up. Not even Congress.

    All we mere mortals can do is hope for the best, try to plan for the worst, and work on keeping our sanity as this spins out.

    by JCarol — March 16, 2018

  36. I believe the comment about means-testing is right, they won’t cut across the board, higher SS payments will get trimmed more. I also believe the means-test will extend to other income (401k, IRA, etc.), so if you were diligent and maxed out your retirement savings, the government will say you don’t need SS as much as people who didn’t save, and cut your benefit (or raise your taxes) even more…

    by G — March 16, 2018

  37. Dave, my husband and I think the same.

    by Tomi — March 16, 2018

  38. Well, another thing we could do would be to vote out all the current members of Congress who refuse to deal with this issue and continue to vote them all out until we get some people in there who actually represent their constituents instead of special interests. What a concept.

    by Linda — March 17, 2018

  39. Acknowledge deciding when to draw SS is a ver personal and situation dependent decision. I only scanned the comments but did no see any mention of family heirs. I am in the take at 62 crowd so I can do a few more things in retirement and take less from my savings, and if God willing, leave some money for the grandchildren. Whether you draw early or late SS is set up to pay out the same amount. The fact that I will draw over 85K before full retirement age and an opportunity to help grandchildren was important to us. Best wishes to all heading into retirement!

    by SPOSGM — March 17, 2018

  40. I also agree that the decision on when to take SS depends on your individual circumstances and how you think the 5 – 10 year future will pan out. One caveat I will state is that you cannot foresee what will occur with your health. Also, do you have long term care plans (we do).

    We are both 70, retired at 55 and made an early decision to take SS at 62. We planned carefully and the markets have cooperated, so we did indeed approximate the 8% on investments that we would have gained in SS had we waited.

    For us, the decision to start at 62 varied. I am now the oldest ever in my direct line (by at least 8 years) — so longevity has been a question. My wife by 62 noted our market returns and the economy in 2010, then decided to also go ahead. Then during our 60’s life (and health) changed. She has several issues and has been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening allergy. While I felt “very” healthy at 55-60, since then I have had a heart attack/triple bypass, I’m about to replace my second knee, I have chronic Achilles bursitis in both heels (at times near crippling), and have become allergic to bee sting along with several other concerns. We are both reasonably ok at 70, but IMO the decision to take SS early was excellent. My family history was a key for me, others may have the good luck not be impacted by health issues for the first 10 or more years, and we all have different investments, pensions, inheritance, etc. that should be considered.

    Just as was true at the time we retired (but did not pan out), the prognosis for the markets over the next 10 years is flat. Carefully consider not only your expected lifespan, but also your possible future health (family history), add in all the uncertainties identified in this article and consider ALL of these various comments. In the end, it’s something a crap shoot. Good luck to all.

    by RichPB — March 17, 2018

  41. It would be naive to think that Congress will do anything except to cut benefits on people with higher asset bases or higher Social Security earnings. They are not going to tax future generations to help aging Baby Boomers so those who have sacrificed and saved for retirement will be hit in the head and the pocket. I planned to wait until 70 but now will take my Social Security at 66, other things irrelevant. Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, can’t agree on much except not to help seniors. What have they done or will do to Medicare is the next issue and it won’t be good. Don’t be naive about this.

    by Randy Henrick — March 18, 2018

  42. RichPB, I agree with what you said.

    No one knows what the future holds as far health goes. You could get hit with a truck, get the flu and die, be unlucky and get dementia. So many things can happen.

    Hub took his at 63 and me at 62 1/2.

    Since then Hub has had surgery and radiation treatments after never being sick except for colds his whole life.

    If you can afford to take it early do it! If not, keep working for the bigger check. The bottom line is if you live long enough you will either break even or collect more if you waited.

    Chances are like RickPB said, you can enjoy your retirement years in the earlier years without serious illness. As the clock ticks, age catches up and different ailments pop up.

    by Louise — March 18, 2018

  43. Rich, I agree with you 100%. I didn’t plan on retiring at all, but got sick and ended up taking it at 65, too for me to enjoy the extra money to travel or have fun and life will probably not be anywhere close to break even age. I was in excellent health, active, and in good shape, until I wasn’t one day. Life goes by fast, take the money and if you don’t need it, invest it.

    by Maimi — March 18, 2018

  44. I have a question about one of the posts above. So, is there a maximum that one can collect on SS? The link posted did not work. I collect partly on my own, but partly on my ex. Husband’s amount. He is a very high earner. I don’t think that what SS is giving me is correct , but no way of checking what he makes now. At time of divorce more than a decade ago, he was earning about 500k/yr. i am sure it is more now, as he owns a company.

    by Maimi — March 18, 2018

  45. I didn’t plan on retiring either but got laid off at age 58 when there were no jobs to be had. Collected Unemployment for 73 weeks. Then my Mom got very sick and was taking her to all over for medical stuff. Eight months later she passed in 2013. So at that point I am 60 years old and still looking for a job but not finding anything. Received an inheritance from my Mom so used that to help pay bills. Hub retired and took SS at age 63 in 2015 and I took SS in 2016 at age 62 1/2. For us it works perfectly. The SS money is a huge portion of our income and we withdraw from IRA to supplement.

    Everybody has different life issues to deal with. That is why there is no one answer on ‘when’ to take SS. What is good for me isn’t good for you. Some people are going to wait till age 70 to collect SS and may collect till age 100. Some other person may wait till age 70 and collect one check and pass away the next month. No one knows what the future holds.

    by Louise — March 19, 2018

  46. This is a burning question I am wrangling with. I am 63 now and 40 years at same job and oh so wanting to call it a career but hard to pull the trigger. Not many males in my family lived pass 50 and I have lived life like I probably would suffer the same fate. Trying to hang on until full retirement but so many other things I want to do.

    by Michael Alwardt — March 19, 2018

  47. What I have seen during my 67 years is that way too many males don’t even make it to 62.

    by Bubbajog — March 19, 2018

  48. My 61 year old brother had a stroke last year, Feb 2017, which took his short-term memory for a time. Luckily no physical deficits. He had therapy for the memory loss and was placed on statins, blood pressure meds, and an anti-seizure medication. He feels awful on these meds and I have asked his doctor to re-evaluate the statin as he is experiencing bone pain from it. He turned his business over to others and sold some of the equipment. He feels his mortality and he was vital, and fit with no medications in his system prior to the stroke. He is taking his Social Security in June when he turns 62 as well as two pensions he earned before he started his business. He feels his mortality now and says he is going to enjoy life while he can. I hope he can do so, but he just does not feel as well now. Without your health money really does not mean as much. He enjoys his beach home and goes there with his wife and dog most weekends. I read the average Social Security beneficiary collects for 15 months–not years….so many people are not able to collect and the money is left in the system.

    by Jennifer — March 19, 2018

  49. Jennifer, I don’t mean to doubt your statement: I read the average Social Security beneficiary collects for 15 months–not years….

    But I have never heard that. I certainly hope it is not true!

    by Louise — March 20, 2018

  50. Jennifer: If he hasn’t already done so, your brother and his wife should check with an elder lawyer before taking SS at 62. He might be eligible for disability SS benefits and Medicare, which would let him defer taking his Social Security so early. (My spouse was on disabilty payments, which converted automatically to his SS at full retirement age.)

    by Kate — March 20, 2018

  51. Maimi – Yes, SS is capped at $2,786 in 2018. Your benefit could be one half of your ex’s benefit. See

    by Kate — March 20, 2018

  52. Michael Alwardt, Wow to you working 40 years at the same job! You must be beyond burned out!

    You need to do an analysis of your money needs. What is your SS going to be now if you collect early. What will it be if you wait 3 years? You will probably take a 18-20% reduction if you take it now at your age of 63.

    At around age 82 you break even. If you had waited to collect at age 66 this is the point where you start making more money if you had waited.

    If you have credit card debt you might want to pay that off before you retire. Once you have your debt paid off, if you have any, then determine if you can can afford to take SS and take withdrawals from IRA’s to make ends meet. If not, then perhaps if you have a large home you can sell it for something small. Or you can do a reverse mortgage on your current home and use that money to supplement your SS.

    It is very hard to leave a job with a steady paycheck. If you are healthy and can deal with 3 more years stick with it if you can deal with it. Are there any options at your job to work from home 3 days a week. Or reduce your hours to maybe 32 hours but still have benefits? Also, if you have a spouse how does that person fit into the financial plan? Will they collect SS too? Do they work?

    Before we collected, I had a notebook filled with Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D. If we do this, if we do that, If we wait, if we take it now…you get the picture! Get a note book and write out your facts and figures! Good luck to you!

    by Louise — March 20, 2018

  53. Hi Kate:

    My brother has already hired an attorney and applied for disability SS, but as a rule they say that usually one is not approved the first go round. They are a law firm in Portland, Oregon with a proven track record and he may be one of the lucky ones…time will tell.

    I make more on my own than half of my ex-husbands SS benefit and he made a six figure income. Mine was not quite up to that level as a nurse. We were married for fifteen years and divorced in the nineties. SS checked into it and definitely gave me the capped figures for 2017. I see that has inched up for 2018. Yes if I could wait until I was 70 I would get more money, but I have not yet been able to find a full time job. I elected to preserve my savings and take the SS early and a part-time job. If I find a full-time job, I can contact SS and have my benefits suspended. They will recalculate my benefits if I am paying into SS again.

    by Jennifer — March 20, 2018

  54. Louise, I hope it is not true too. I do not want to think of only collecting SS for fifteen months. I do see a lot of my friends and acquaintances having lots of physical problems as they reach their early sixties….I do not think, act, or look old and I was shocked to see these people who were so vital be stricken. It scares me. I changed to a plant based diet and am eliminating simple carbohydrates, and dairy products (cheese has been the hardest for me). I took a part-time job at a historic property here in DC and I walk all day with a pedometer as I prepare groups for tours—and also give the tours if there are not enough volunteer docents. I love it so far, it is a seasonal job that will end on July 1. I hope by that time to find something else that is as much fun and rewarding. I know that some day something will get me–we all will, but I hope to extend my life with physical activity, I do have longevity on both sides, but I realize I could be stricken at any time. I would never guess that my younger brother would have a stroke. I am now 63.5 and will be 64 in September. When it is your time…it is your time. I would like to have some good years ahead.

    by Jennifer — March 20, 2018

  55. Jennifer – I really admire your efforts to stay healthy. Certainly, health is a major factor in deciding when to take SS. I retired at 65. While I probably should have tried to keep going to 66, the stresses of my job would have taken years off my life. I’ve just spent my first two months of retirement happily reading, real estate shopping online, and watching tv with my feet up. While it was great not to get up at 4 am and have so much stress at work, I’ve realized that snacking & sitting around is not actually not a good path to a long and healthy retirement. (Hmmm. Good idea for a blog, Administrator!).

    by Kate — March 20, 2018

  56. Michael Alwardt and others desperately hanging on to get full SS benefits despite wanting to retire: Especially if your family history suggests a shorter life span, consider that 1) you might die tomorrow and 2) many (including me) have noted significant health problems can surprise in your 60s. How do you want to spend your remaining time and what do you want to do after retirement?

    by RichPB — March 20, 2018

  57. Yes health is definitely a major factor in the decision. Wife has 3 hip surgeries, 2 new knees since turning 60 and myself a pulmonary embolism at 60. Health insurance is a stumbling block trying to retire now. Also cost of living for us is one of the highest in US. Unfortunately wife doesn’t want to live elsewhere. I have a decent 401K mainly because of 40 yrs putting into it. Ha I never figured on living this long or would have been able to retire a lot earlier.

    by Michael Alwardt — March 20, 2018

  58. Louise–I re read what I had found and I was wrong—the average amount of checks issued prior to death is not fifteen–it is THIRTEEN!! That is thirteen months of checks. No wonder they want everyone to wait until they are 70. Keeps more money in the pool. More money per month is a good thing and I always planned to work to 70 or at least wait to claim SS until I was 70. I am trying to do my best to preserve my savings and still survive in a high cost of living area. I have travelled a lot in my youth and lived in Egypt for six years. I am happy to live simply and create memories. Many retirees want to keep up their lifestyles living large in retirement. That is fine for them. I can live well by being more of a minimalist. Scaling back is no problem for me. Until I decide if I am staying here, DC has much to offer. Lots of free or reduced activities….I even get discounts on AMTRAK. I will take advantage of anything that interests me if it is offered at reduced rates.

    by Jennifer — March 21, 2018

  59. Jennifer – please provide your source for the claim of thirteen months of collecting Social Security. Thank you.

    by Doug — March 21, 2018

  60. Jennifer, the statement that thirteen is the average number of SS checks issued prior to death seems very suspicious, given that US life expectancy is roughly 78-80 years. If indeed the average number of checks issued per person were only thirteen, SS would not be in trouble. I’d guess that your source meant thirteen years, not 13 checks.

    by JCarol — March 21, 2018

  61. My husband and I retired at 60 years of age and I am so happy we made that decision. I had a heart attack at 61 and a cancer diagnosis at 65. In those five years we traveled extensively and shared many great memories. Since the Cancer diagnosis I have not been able to travel. I should point out that we have Railroad pensions and I also have a private pension. We were debt free at retirement and never lived beyond our means. If, I had waited till 65 I would have missed many experiences. Just a reminder that health can change very quickly.

    by Sue B — March 21, 2018

  62. We have a 24 year old disabled son who lives with us. I turn 62 in May and submitted my application for SS. I received a call and will be going in next month for an interview since my earnings will not bump up our son’s montly SSI payment. He was born with a rare diseases and is multiply disabled. I do not know how much extra he will receive but even if it is another $10 per month this will kick in when I start to receive my payment. In my case, waiting longer might not have been the right choice since there is a benefit to our son.

    by Brenda Conger — March 21, 2018

  63. We moved a group of comments that had to do with medical/dental insurance to a more relevant Blog post.

    by Admin — March 22, 2018

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