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When to file for Social Security

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Most Americans depend on Social Security to supplement their retirement income and help their savings last throughout their post-working years. Among Americans aged 65 or older that are Social Security beneficiaries, 50 percent of married couples and 70 percent of unmarried persons receive at least half of their income from Social Security. And of this group, 21 percent of married couples and about 45 percent of unmarried persons rely on Social Security benefits for at least 90 percent of their income.

With Social Security’s potentially major role in your retirement, it’s important to try and get the most out of the benefits you’ve earned, which includes determining the timing of when to file. Your full retirement age is the age you’re eligible to receive 100 percent of your Social Security benefits. The full retirement age is 66 for eligible workers born between 1943 and 1954 and increases gradually if you were born from 1955 to 1960. For anyone born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. As you determine when to file, here are some reasons why waiting to full retirement age, and beyond, may be beneficial for you.

Collect before full retirement age and you may lose money

Over half of Americans begin collecting Social Security before reaching their full retirement age. Keep in mind that starting early means a significant decrease in your monthly benefit amount. Specifically, a benefit is reduced 5/9 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of one percent per month. The SSA has a helpful benefit reduction chart that provides examples.

Wait until age 70, and you’ll receive a 76 percent higher monthly payout

Beginning at age 62 and ending at age 70, your benefit grows up to 8 percent per year for each year that you defer taking benefits. That’s a significant increase.

Let’s compare two people with the same income, work history and birth year, except one claims Social Security benefits at age 62 and the other waits till age 70. The person claiming at age 70 will receive up to a 76 percent higher monthly payout.

Keep in mind longevity too. With some people living longer, that higher monthly payout can make a big difference when it comes to managing ever-increasing health care costs, prescription drugs or even using the money for travel. A study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College revealed that only 75 percent of Social Security benefits remain after paying for medical costs like premiums, cost-sharing and uncovered services. This is an important factor to keep in mind as you determine when the best time is for you to file. 

Provide more for your loved ones

Spouses typically have two options when it comes to filing for Social Security. They can either collect spousal benefits based on 50% of their significant other’s Social Security benefit or claim benefits based on their own earnings. Using the spousal benefit calculator can help you determine which option may provide a higher amount. 

If you pass away, your family members (spouse or children) may be eligible to receive survivors benefits. Survivor benefits are based on a percentage of your basic Social Security benefit, so the more you pay into Social Security, the higher the benefits to your survivor will be. The amount also depends on the survivor’s age and the type of benefit he or she is eligible to receive. For example, if you claimed benefits before your full retirement age and were receiving reduced benefits, your loved one’s benefit would be based on that reduced amount.

Taking these factors into consideration can help you determine the best timing for claiming Social Security benefits. When you take a step back to see how Social Security fits into your retirement income plan, you may be able to see if you need to make some adjustments. This can be a great discussion to have with your financial professional as part of your overall retirement planning conversation.

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This material contains educational information regarding the availability and details surrounding the Social Security program and is not intended to promote any product or service offered by Athene. The information represents a general understanding of the Social Security Program and should not be considered personalized advice regarding Social Security, tax, or legal advice. Details of the Social Security Program are subject to change. Please consult with your tax or legal advisor regarding your individual situation prior to making any decisions. Visit for additional details.