Back to Basics: When to Begin Social Security, Part 1


Social Security shouldn't be the core of your retirement planning, but it can be an important component. Here's a look at how different retirement ages will affect your benefits.

By the time Generation Y and Millennials are ready to retire, Social Security will either be bankrupt and nonexistent, completely reformed and funded differently than it is today, or replaced by some other mechanism. But if you’re getting closer to retirement within the next decade or two, income from Social Security

—and when to begin taking it—will

be a big


One important thing to note: Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of income for retirees. Most experts agree that a typical retiree will need to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of the income they received while working to live in the manner they’ve become accustomed to, and for most


, Social Security won’t get them close to that. Hopefully, you’re

looking forward to income from the sale of a practice, a

pension, retirement accounts, and other investments

. If that is the case,

Social Security for you will be what it was designed to be


a supplement to your other savings.












Like many other financial and retirement-related decisions, when to start Social Security will depend on your circumstances and goals. You


start collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but that doesn’t mean you


. If you start collecting at age 62, you will forego as much as 25% of the monthly amount you will receive by waiting until full retirement age.

While past generations could enjoy full eligibility for Social Security at age 65, everyone born after 1937 must make a bit of an adjustment. For example, if you were born after 1943, you'll have to wait until at least age 66 to retire if you want to receive full benefits. If you were born after 1960, your full retirement age is 67. But if you’re in a position to do so, waiting even longer can be beneficial. Your benefits will increase each year beyond the year you turn 67 until you reach age 70.

The Social Security Administration website is easy to use and is very helpful. The site includes a calculator


, and it also has:

Some background on Social Security

A basic benefit planner


nformation on how and when to apply

A retirement benefits estimator you can use to figure out how much income you can expect at different ages based on the number of “credits” you earned over the course of your career; and

A section on disability benefits.

In Part 2,

we’ll look at when you should start claiming benefits.

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