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When it Makes Sense to Take Social Security Early

fries with gravy by tweber1In this blog many times we’ve covered how beneficial it can be to delay receiving Social Security benefits as long as you can. An example of this discussion is in the article Ah, Sweet Procrastination – it makes good financial sense to delay receiving your benefit to age 70 in many cases, but of course not all.

The reason delayed filing can be such a great benefit is that this government-backed income stream is pretty much as good as you can get, in terms of longevity insurance. When you start receiving the benefit, you’ll continue to receive it through your entire life. When you start receiving your benefit impacts the amount that you will receive for your life. Plus, depending upon the amount of your spouse’s benefit, it will impact the amount that your spouse would receive as a Survivor’s Benefit as well.

But there are times when it may make more sense to begin receiving your benefit earlier…

Starting Early

Circumstances require it. If you’re in ill health, have a shortened life expectancy, or have very limited other resources, it may be necessary to start taking your Social Security benefit early. The financial calculations that we do that explain how delaying receipt of benefits is the better choice, always assume that the recipient will live to at least age 80 or beyond and can get along using other resources until filing at age 70. If one or the other (or both) of these circumstances is not the case for you, it likely makes more sense to begin taking your benefit earlier.

Spouse with a relatively small benefit. If the spouse with the lower wage base has earned a relatively small benefit and intends to switch over to a Spousal Benefit as soon as it makes financial sense, it might make more sense to start taking the smaller benefit early, even though it is reduced. In this case the financial impact of starting to take the benefit early doesn’t amount to a significant reduction in real dollars, so taking the benefit for several years is just extra “gravy on your french fries”, in a manner of speaking.

Social Security doesn’t matter to you. If you have more funds than you really need and the Social Security benefit is of very little real benefit to you – or if you consider the Social Security system a “safety net” for needy folks, you might want to start early. Or you may choose to not take the benefit at all.

Psychological impact. If you simply cannot stand the thought of leaving your Social Security benefit in the government’s hands any longer than necessary and you feel it’s to your best interest to start early (even in the face of facts to the contrary), then by all means start taking benefits early. If that’s what it takes to ease your mind, you should do it. Life’s too short to be wrought up over such matters.

Closing Thoughts

As stated before, in many cases it makes the most financial sense for the spouse with the higher earned benefit to delay benefits to age 70, but not in all cases. In order to really get a good handle on how these calculations would work for you, it may help to hire a professional advisor to run through the numbers with you.


  1. J Jacobs says:

    Two more reasons – 1. You have a minor child who will also receive benefits on your record, plus a non-working spouse who can collect a ‘child in care’ benefit. 2. You have an overseas pension that will lead to your SS being subject to WEP when you take it. If that other pension doesn’t start until you are 67, then for the 5 years from 62 to 67 you can take SS without it being reduced for WEP.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes! These are two very good reasons to start benefits earlier, allowing for additional benefits due to the provisions in the system.

      Thanks for sharing –

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