Delayed Retirement: Can I Get More Money From Social Security?
You may have heard your friends or family discuss delayed Social Security retirement benefits. You may wonder what this means and how a delay may affect your benefit amount. In short, delaying benefits means waiting to claim your Social Security payments until after "full retirement age" for higher monthly payouts.
Planning for life as a retiree is about more than ensuring you have enough income to get by. It's also about maximizing your retirement income. But delayed retirement is not for everyone. This article details how delayed retirement can maximize your retirement income. This article will also provide some factors to consider on whether this strategy is right for you.
How Delayed Retirement Credits Can Increase Your Monthly Social Security Checks
The "primary insurance amount" (PIA) is an American's standard Social Security retirement benefit. You receive your PIA when you claim benefits at "full retirement age" (FRA). The Social Security Administration (SSA) adjusts or “indexes" your lifetime earnings record to arrive at your PIA. This indexing factors in changes to general wage levels during your working years. The SSA then calculates your "average indexed monthly earnings." Finally, the SSA applies a formula to these earnings to arrive at your PIA. Cost-of-living adjustments increase the PIA.
The SSA incentivizes earners to work past their FRA. Each month you don't collect benefits after your FRA, you receive a delayed retirement credit or a benefit increase. Each month you wait, your monthly benefit rises incrementally by a percentage of your PIA until you reach 70. Depending on your year of birth, the annual increase is between 5.5% and 8.0%.
For example, for people born in 1943 or later, the SSA increases a worker's benefit by 8% annually. So, workers who get full benefits (100%) at age 66 (FRA) will receive 132% if they wait until 70 to claim benefits. This means instead of $1,500 at 66, this worker will get $1,980 per month at 70. That's $480 more monthly for waiting four extra years to claim benefits.
Finding Your 'Break-Even Age'
Of course, a larger monthly check is only part of the consideration when planning for retirement. You may also want to consider your total lifetime benefits and the "break-even point." The break-even point is when the value of the higher benefits for waiting past FRA to collect catches up and later surpasses the value of taking benefits earlier and longer.
To best show what the break-even age is and how it works, it's helpful to look at an example. For instance, based on your lifetime earnings, you'd collect $1,000 a month if you retired at 66. You'd receive $1,500 monthly if you waited until 70 to collect benefits. The break-even age for this example is the age at which you would have collected the exact amount based on the two choices. Here, that age is 78. When you turn 78, you would have received $144,000 if you started collecting at age 66 and $144,000 if you waited until 70.
If you expect to live past 78, collecting when you turn 70 would result in more money in the long run since your monthly payments would be larger. But if your life expectancy is less than 78 years old, you would be better off collecting at 66.
You can use the SSA's early or late retirement calculator to determine how the timing of retirement may impact your benefits. You can also create a my Social Security account online at SSA.gov to estimate your future benefits and verify your earnings record,
Other Factors to Consider When Thinking About Delayed Retirement
You may be considering maximizing your monthly benefit and lifetime Social Security income. Delaying your retirement may achieve both goals. But sometimes, claiming retirement benefits early (for a reduced benefit) or at FRA makes more sense.
You can delay retirement if health and longevity are on your side, especially if you have other sources of income or retirement accounts. But, if you have a severe illness or condition or don't believe you can work into old age, you might want to consider taking an earlier benefit. The government provides a life expectancy calculator, which may be helpful.
Consider your family. The SSA provides family benefits on your record, including for qualifying beneficiaries and dependents. Family benefits include survivor benefits for your surviving spouse and your divorced spouse. Suppose you have a disabled child who requires extra services, for example. In that case, you might consider filing for early retirement or at FRA to claim your benefit and a benefit for your child.
It's no secret that the Social Security system has some problems. Experts project a revenue shortfall in the retirement fund by 2033, a year earlier than in 2022's report. It's possible the trust fund won't be able to pay every retiree their total benefit amount. The anxiety over the program's solvency is enough to make some cash in sooner rather than later.
It's important to remember that, despite what you may hear, there are no hidden Social Security "bonuses." But there used to be a strategy known as "file and suspend." But, in 2015, Congress eliminated this loophole. Now, while you can still suspend your benefits, your spouse can't claim a spousal benefit simultaneously.
Get Guidance from a Social Security Attorney
Deciding whether to delay claiming Social Security benefits is ultimately a personal decision, but figuring out what option best suits your needs can be complicated. A Social Security attorney can help guide you through decision-making and discuss related topics like Medicare and retirement planning.
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