When should you really file for Social Security?


Written by:


Deciding when to apply for Social Security can be a complicated math problem, one that has a different answer for each person depending on their circumstances. The earlier you file, the lower your benefit amount, but the more payments you receive over time. The later you file, the higher the benefit, but the fewer payments you receive. If you have other income, the portion of your benefit could be taxed — up to 85%. And if you’re married, you may be able to stagger your individual Social Security retirement benefit applications for an optimal financial outcome.


Generally speaking, the main constant in this math problem is a person’s expected Social Security retirement benefit: the amount you would receive if you waited until full retirement age  to claim your benefit. By creating an account at SSA.gov  , you can see what your benefit is projected to be at each age from 62 on. But there are many other factors to consider when choosing your retirement date.

At What Age Can You Apply for Social Security

Here, you’ll learn more about selecting the right age to apply for Social Security, whether that’s 62 or older.

Applying for Social Security at Age 62

The earliest most people can apply for Social Security is age 62. The greater the difference between when you apply and when you reach full retirement age, the more the Social Security Administration will reduce the amount of your benefit. For those born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. Taking retirement at 62 will cause your benefit to be reduced by about 30%.


If your benefit at full retirement would be $1,000 a month, and you file for benefits at 62, you will only receive about $700 or 70% of the amount you would have received at full retirement. For each month you wait past the age of 62, that amount rises a little bit. At $700 a month, if you lived to the average U.S. lifespan of about 80 years old, you would receive $151,200 over your lifetime.

Applying for Social Security at Age 65

Many people don’t want to wait for their full retirement age. In fact, the average retirement age is 64. If you were born after 1960 and you retire at 65, you can expect to receive 86.7% of your full retirement benefit. The Social Security Retirement Age Calculator  shows when to apply for Social Security for maximum benefit with minimum waiting.

Applying for Social Security at Age 67

If you wait to apply for benefits until full retirement, you will get the full amount of your benefit. In the example used above, that would be $1,000 a month. In this scenario, if you live to age 80, you would receive $156,000 over your lifetime, which is $5,000 more than if you filed five years earlier.

Applying for Social Security at Age 70

Every month you delay applying for benefits causes the monthly benefit amount to grow, up until age 70. If you file at age 70, your monthly Social Security retirement payment is 30% higher than it would have been if you filed at full retirement. Rather than receiving $1,000 a month you would receive about $1,300 a month. If you live to age 80, that comes to $156,000 which is the same total amount you would receive if you filed at full retirement age. This brings into the equation one of the factors that influences at what age you may want to file for Social Security benefits: how long you expect to live.

Other Factors That Drive When To Apply For Social Security

Now, here’s what you need to consider in terms of the other factors that impact when you apply for Social Security benefits.

How Long Will You Live?

Of course, no one knows for certain how long they will live. The Social Security Administration has a rather sobering life expectancy calculator  that shows at what age a person born on your birthday can expect to die, on average. It’s based on your birthdate and doesn’t factor in health, genetics, or lifestyle. If you expect to live only to age 75, for example, you might be inclined to take your Social Security benefit early so that you could enjoy it for a longer time. But if you live until age 90, taking Social Security retirement benefits early could cost you a lot of money. Here’s how your lifetime benefit would be impacted by filing at different ages if your full retirement benefit is $1,000 a month:


•   At age 62, you would receive a total of $235,000 over your lifespan.

•   At age 65, you would receive $260,100.

•   At 67 that jumps to $276,000.

•   If you wait until age 70 it is $312,000.

So, if you expect to live a long life, waiting a few years to file could make a big difference in your total benefit.

Are You Married?

There are many myths around Social Security benefits, so it’s important to delve into your particular situation. Spouses are eligible for half of the benefit their spouse would receive at full retirement age. That amount is reduced if the primary beneficiary files early. For instance, if you apply for Social Security benefits before you reach full retirement age, you would automatically be deemed as applying for spousal benefits as well if your spouse is already receiving benefits. The maximum spousal benefit you can qualify for is typically 50% of your partner’s benefits calculated at full retirement age.


One option for spouses is to file for one spouse’s benefit early, say at 62, and postpone filing for the other spouse’s benefit until age 70. This can provide money now and more money later. If one partner dies, the surviving partner is automatically assigned the higher benefit between their own and their late spouse.

Do You Have Other Income?

You may wonder what is a good monthly retirement income for a couple. Keep in mind that the average couple in their 60s and 70s spends around $4,000 a month, or $48,000 a year.


A lot of that is spent on the typical retirement expenses of housing and healthcare. The average retirement benefit in May 2022 was $1,688. So an average couple would receive $3,376 in benefits. Consequently, many people have to rely on other forms of income including wages from a job, pensions, dividends, interest or capital gains in addition to their Social Security benefit. In fact, having access to other forms of income may impact when you can retire.


If you do have income besides your Social Security benefit, and most people do, you might want to delay claiming your benefit. If you earn income from working, and you claim your benefit before full retirement age, your benefit may be reduced. If you have other types of income, such as pensions or interest on the money you’ve saved in your retirement account, your benefit will not be reduced; these don’t count as earnings. However, you may have to pay taxes on it.

The Takeaway

For most people, their Social Security benefit is unlikely to sustain them through their retirement years; they need to have another source of income. The earlier they retire, the smaller their benefit will be and the more they may need a second or third source of income. Gaining that income through wages can reduce your benefit if you retire before full retirement age.


Learn More:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2022 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 3.50% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 2.50% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 12/16/2022. Additional information can be found at sofi.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

More from MediaFeed:

Social Security: Key ways to make the most of your benefits


Whether you’ll rely primarily on Social Security benefits in retirement, or instead view benefits as a supplement to your retirement savings, understanding your eligibility and how to optimize the amount you receive is important. Here, we’ve listed 15 of the most important things you’ll need to know to do just that.

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.




When people think of Social Security, it’s usually earned benefits that come to mind.

Those are the benefits you personally earn through working. But Social Security also extends benefits in some cases to spouses, ex-spouses and children.

The three main types of Social Security retirement benefits are:

  1. Earned Benefits, or those based on your own earnings record.
  2. Spousal Benefits, or those based on your spouse’s or ex-spouse’s earnings record.
  3. Survivor Benefits, or those based on your deceased spouse’s earnings record.

Related: A happiness guru’s guide to successful aging


zimmytws / istockphoto


While non-disabled people can begin collecting their Social Security benefits at 62, your monthly benefit amount will increase for every month that you wait until turning 70 years old. After that, the benefit does not increase. So if you can wait, you’ll optimize your benefit amount by waiting until age 70.




There’s no advantage to waiting to collect spousal benefits after you reach your full retirement age like there is with your own benefits. They’re capped at 100%, so if you’re planning on taking them, go ahead and do so when you reach full retirement age.




If you are married, widowed or divorced, and earned less than your spouse, waiting to collect your own retirement benefit in order to maximize may be a bad choice. You may be better off taking your own retirement benefit at age 62, then switching to your spousal benefit starting at your full retirement age.


fizkes / istockphoto


If you’re divorced, there are circumstances when you can collect spousal benefits based on your ex’s earnings. First, you must’ve been married at least 10 years before divorcing. Second, you must wait until your ex reaches age 62 in order to be able to claim their benefit. This means that if you are older than your ex and your ex was the higher earner, you’ll be able to collect your reduced retirement benefit early without being forced to take your spousal benefit early, which would mean that it would be permanently reduced. Also, you won’t be automatically deemed to be applying for spousal benefits when your ex reaches age 62. What’s relevant for the deeming is the age he/she was at the time you first apply for your retirement benefit.




To qualify for survivors benefits, you must be a:

  • Widow or widower, age 60 or older (age 50 if you are disabled), who was married to the deceased for at least nine months
  • Widow or widower at any age who is caring for a deceased worker’s child who is younger than age 16 or disabled
  • Divorced spouse of the deceased (in some cases)
  • A minor or disabled child
  • Dependent parent of the deceased age 62 or older (in some cases)
  • Stepchild or grandchild of the deceased (in some cases)


AndreyPopov / Getty


You can still earn wages while you’re receiving survivor benefits, with a caveat: If you haven’t reached your full retirement age, some of your survivors benefits might be withheld. For 2020, $1 from your survivors benefits will be deducted for every $2 you earn above $18,240.

Note that only wages count, not pensions, interest, investment earnings or other government benefits.


dragana991 / istockphoto


Kids can receive their deceased parent’s Social Security benefits if they are unmarried and younger than 18, or up to 19 if still in high school. In addition, if the children are disabled, regardless of their age, and the disability occurred before they turned 22, they are eligible for survivors benefits. Adult children who are not disabled are not eligible to receive their parents’ Social Security benefits.

If you’re raising your deceased spouse or ex-spouse’s minor or disabled child, no matter how old you are, you also can receive survivors benefits. The child must be under age 16, unless he or she is disabled.

There are limits to how much one family can collect in Social Security benefits. These limits can get complicated, but usually a family maximum will be between 150 and 188% of the worker’s basic Social Security benefit. Benefits paid to a divorced spouse don’t count toward the family limit.




Adopted children are treated the same as biological children under the survivors benefits guidelines. Stepchildren can receive survivors benefits if they were at least one-half supported by the stepparent who died.

Grandchildren can be eligible for benefits if their parents are disabled or have died and the grandchildren were living with the grandparent who died.

Parents, step parents or adoptive parents age 62 and older who are not eligible for their own benefits might be eligible for benefits if they were financially dependent on the deceased worker for at least half of their support. Marrying after the death might end your survivors benefits.

SPONSORED: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

1. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes.

2. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.




 In some cases, the Social Security Administration may pay survivor benefits retroactively. Those situations include:

  • Spouses younger than full retirement age who file for survivor benefits within one month of a spouse or ex-spouse’s death can receive one month of retroactive benefits.
  • Widows or widowers who wait to file after they reach full retirement age can receive up to six months of retroactive benefits back to the month they reached full retirement age.
  • Disabled widows and widowers who file before age 61 are eligible for up to 12 months of retroactive survivor benefits.

Related: Think Social Security will fail? Here’s how to save for retirement




Social Security can pay benefits to surviving spouses and children, but under certain circumstances, also to a surviving parent. Read Social Security’s fact sheet about Parent’s Benefits for the details.




While a surviving spouse’s survivor benefits will end if they get remarried before age 60, benefits can continue for marriages after age 60.


KatarzynaBialasiewicz / istockphoto


Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are for people who are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, but became disabled before they reached full retirement age. The number of work credits you need to qualify for SSDI depends on your age when you became disabled. The older you were, the more credits you’ll need.

You should apply for SSDI as soon as you become disabled so you don’t lose out on any benefits. It can take as long as three to five months to process your claim. Regardless, your benefits won’t begin until you’ve been disabled for six full months.

Before you apply for disability insurance, you should consult the Disability Starter Kit. The kit spells out the information you will need to apply and to prepare for your disability interview. Applying online may take between one to two hours.




Before you apply for your retirement, disability or surivor benefits, you’ll want to round up the following information for yourself and/or your spouse or ex-spouse:

  • Social Security card
  • Your original birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S.
  • A copy of your U.S. military service papers
  • A copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year.
  • If you’re married, the name, Social Security number and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You should also know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if applicable).
  • The account number and routing number for your bank account




About 40% of people who get Social Security have to pay federal taxes on their benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. This usually happens only if you have significant income, a pension, IRA or 401(k) withdrawals or other taxable income, in addition to your Social Security benefits. The good news is that if you do owe taxes on your benefits, only 85% of your benefits are taxable.




Whether Social Security benefits will be a key part of your retirement plans or a nice supplement to your retirement savings, it’s important to figure out how much you will receive, which benefits you’re eligible for, the optimal time to claim your benefits and how much money you will need each month to live. Arming yourself with knowledge is a great step to making smart decisions about your benefits.

This article originally appeared on SimplyWise.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.





Deposit Photos


Featured Image Credit: Tinpixels.