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Welcome to the Mad, Mad World of Social Security

The rules for taking social security retirement benefits are complex and confusing, so it’s wise to have an experienced guide.

When should you start taking Social Security benefits?

If you haven’t yet asked that question, you will one day. Few personal finance questions matter as much as this one. That’s because the majority of retirees get more than half their income from Social Security. And close to 20 percent of retirees get all their income from Social Security.1

That’s why the question is so important. Unfortunately, the Social Security system is complicated — so complicated, in fact, that only 33 percent of respondents, aged 55 to 65, were able to pass 12 “true or false” questions on Social Security posed by MassMutual.2

So, when should you start taking Social Security benefits? The rules are so complicated that the answer is … it depends.

For example, you can start to receive Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. But your monthly benefit rises 8 percent for each year you wait to start — until age 70, when the increases stop.3 Therefore, you must consider carefully the best time to begin. Should you start to receive a smaller amount at 62, or wait until 70 to get a higher monthly check, or perhaps start somewhere in between?

There are lots of factors to consider, including:

  • Your need for income.
  • Your other sources of income.
  • Whether you’re still working, and what your income is.
  • Your marital status, your spouse’s age and the amount of income your spouse earns.
  • Your health.

Making the right choice can be daunting — and once you decide, your decision is generally irrevocable. That’s why the Planners at Edelman Financial Engines devote so much time with our clients on this key personal finance question.

Have You Established Your Account at SSA.gov?

Nearly 90 percent of those 50 and older have not created their accounts at SSA.gov. It’s important that you do — before a cyberthief opens an account in your name. Your online account with the Social Security Administration lets you confirm that your benefit calculations are correct and up to date.

It’s easy to create your online account. Just go to SSA.gov. Do it today.

  1. Biggs, A. G. (2020, January 27). Factcheck: Do 40 percent of retirees rely on Social Security for their entire income? American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved March 09, 2021, from https://www.aei.org/articles/factcheck-do-40-of-retirees-rely-on-social-security-for-their-entire-income/
  2. Freitag, D. (April 17, 2020). Social Security education: How are you doing? Mass Mutual. Retrieved February 10, 2021 from https://blog.massmutual.com/post/social-security-quiz
  3. Iacurci, G. (2020, January 13). This costly Social Security mistake could result in years of regret. CNBC. Retrieved March 9, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/10/this-costly-social-security-mistake-could-result-in-years-of-regret.html

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