Conventional retirement wisdom tells us we should wait as long as possible to claim our Social Security benefits. “Hold off until full retirement age,” we’re told. “Try to wait until you’re 70.”
This advice makes sense, considering that the longer we delay our benefits, the higher those benefits will be.
Of course, the opposite is true, too. If we file early, our benefits will be permanently reduced, forcing us to live more humbly or find ways to make extra money while retired. Still, we can’t always wait to file. And in these 10 scenarios, we probably shouldn’t.
You need the money
Arguably one of the most logical reasons to take Social Security sooner rather than later is because you’re short on funds. Waiting for a higher benefit amount may not be possible if you’ve seen a sharp increase in expenses.
Besides, the extra money you’d get may not outweigh the financial harm done if you fall behind on bills in the meantime. If you find yourself in this boat, don’t feel bad about making the tough decision to prioritize immediate needs over future gain.
You won’t need as much money in retirement
On the other hand, you may be one of the lucky ones whose expenses decrease in retirement. Perhaps you’re downsizing or moving in with family, or maybe you’re selling the vehicle you used for your daily commute.
Whatever your situation, if you’ll have fewer bills when you retire, you may not need the increased benefits that come with waiting to file. Just be sure you’ve double- and triple-checked your anticipated expenses, as well as budgeted for inflation and emergencies, before you make a move.
You can’t work full-time anymore
For any number of reasons, you might be forced to work less. That old trick knee might be acting up more than usual, your son may need help tending to the grandkids, or your job might be cutting back on hours.
If your regular income drops and getting a second job isn’t an option, filing for Social Security before you reach full retirement age is worth considering.
Pro tip: You can compensate for your reduced income by using these money moves to boost your bank account.
You’ve invested enough to forgo the higher benefit amount
Ideally, you won’t be relying solely on Social Security benefits to carry you through retirement. You’ll hopefully have had the privilege of being able to invest in a 401(k), IRA, or other investment account alongside paying into Social Security.
If that’s the case, you may have enough money in those retirement vehicles to pick up the early-Social Security slack. Check your retirement account balances, determine your distribution amounts, and use those figures to help you make your decision.
You’re at your break-even point
When you delay taking Social Security, you receive more money each month, but you get fewer checks over time. When you file early, your monthly checks are lower, but you get benefits for a longer period.
Your break-even point is how many years you’d have to wait for the total value of delayed, shorter benefits to catch up to the total value of earlier, longer benefits. The break-even age is usually between 77 to 83 years old, but it’s different for everyone.
If you’ve calculated your break-even point and it’s farther away than you’re comfortable with, it might make sense to take Social Security now.
Pro tip: Make these small adjustments to your financial habits to avoid throwing money away in your retirement.
You’re worried about declining health
As we age, our bodies change, and we’re hit with common ailments like arthritis and hypertension. But as much as we hate to think about it, we’re sometimes faced with prognoses that are far more serious and harder to treat.
Taking Social Security early may help you cover medical costs or pay for necessary conveniences, like a weekly dog walker so you can save your energy. Additionally — and at the risk of sounding a little morbid — filing for benefits sooner may bring financial relief if your health deteriorates further.
You’re concerned about the future of Social Security
According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security retirement benefits will begin to run out by 2035. The agency states that, unless the program is somehow reformed, retirees will lose roughly 20% of what they’re supposed to receive.
If you reach full retirement age before then, you may not have as much to worry about. But if you’ll be within that 62 to 67 age range, pay close attention to any new Social Security legislation. You may be put in a position where taking your benefits early and cutting your losses is your best bet.
You’re confident you can use that money to make more money
Just because you retire doesn’t mean you spend the rest of your days knitting gloves for cats and going to bed by 4 p.m. (unless you want to, of course). You can still work, you can still invest, and you can still build wealth.
Taking early Social Security may be worth the lower benefit amount if you plan to put those funds toward money-generating activities. Similarly, leaving the traditional workforce and living on Social Security could buy you time to start a new venture. Maybe this is your chance to finally launch Mittens for Kittens on Etsy and make that fortune you’ve always dreamed of.
You need to pay down debt
Filing for Social Security before you reach full retirement age won’t just help you start a business; it could also give you the money you need to crush your debt once and for all.
The less debt you carry throughout retirement, the more disposable income you’ll have. If you continue working while you draw on Social Security, those benefits could be just the boost you need to pay off high-interest debt faster and improve your overall financial health.
You just want to
Sometimes, the best justification for doing anything is solely because you want to. That includes when you decide to take Social Security. Forfeiting the higher benefit amount may be well worth it if you don’t want to wait to take vacations, hit the golf course, or just relax.
If you can afford to retire early, even with reduced Social Security benefits, it’s OK to go for it. After all, this is what you’ve been working so hard for. You’ve earned it.
While you’ll receive a larger monthly benefit amount if you wait to take Social Security, there are many situations that warrant filing for benefits as soon as possible.
Still, your circumstances could change. Financial moves that made sense in early retirement might not serve you down the road, and you may find that you need more money than you anticipated.
Err on the side of caution, and map out two or three ways to supplement your Social Security income, just in case. That way, you can enjoy your benefits now, knowing you have a backup plan in place should you ever need it.
FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.