Last week I wrote about how to optimize your Social Security, but I mentioned that deciding on when to take Social Security is not always as simple as waiting until you are age 70 so that you have the potential to receive the most money possible.
Rather than simply looking at the bottom line, I suggest you think through these nine key factors when deciding on your Social Security timeline:
1. Your own longevity. It’s morbid, but the age you’ll live until is the single most impactful variable in your filing strategy. Considering your estimated longevity, what age should you start Social Security? For people expecting to live into their 90s, delaying Social Security until 70 ultimately pays you out “the most” as time is on your side. Of course, the converse is true as well. Delaying social security doesn’t maximize your overall benefits unless you live long enough to make up for what you didn’t collect by waiting.
2. Your spouse. What age should your spouse begin taking Social Security? Before you, the same time, or wait until after you start? I’ve found our new Social Security Optimizer to be very helpful with answering this question.
3. Work history. If your spouse has never worked, can they piggyback on you benefits; and if so, what age should they begin? If they piggyback on your benefits will it reduce your benefits?
4. Solvency. Isn’t the Social Security trust fund scheduled to “run out” of money in a few years? Should you just take Social Security while you can get it?
5. Break even or go broke. If you wait to take Social Security, how long will it take you to “break even” on the money you’ve left on the table?
6. Marital status. How is your Social Security impacted if you’re divorced, widowed, a same-sex couple, etc.?
7. Other income sources. Considering your other income sources, full or part time work, pension income, investment income sources, etc. Based on these additional sources of income, when’s the best time to file for your Social Security benefits?
8. Is it too late. What if you’ve already filed? Can you make a change to your election if you filed early, and if so at what later age?
9. Lifestyle. When will this money be most useful to you? In your go-go years, slow-go years, or no-go years?
These are just a few of the critical questions you have to answer before you make your decision on when to take your Social Security. This exercise may help you understand why the government had to come up with nearly 3,000 rules regulating Social Security. Clearly, no two families are likely to have the exact same considerations when deciding on their Social Security strategy.
If you’re looking to get a better grasp on how you can maximize your Social Security payments, I suggest you try Capital Investment Advisors’ new Social Security Optimizer tool. If you’d like more help with thinking through the above questions and planning out your retirement, then schedule an appointment with one of Capital’s advisors. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to filing for Social Security, but some answers are better than others.
Certified financial planner Wes Moss offers financial and accessible investment advice to Atlanta Bargain Hunter readers.