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Advice on Social Security Benefits

I get a lot of questions about when to take Social Security benefits most efficiently, and when to begin Spousal Benefits. And unfortunately, I am often at a loss for giving a specific answer to the individual, because I just don’t have enough information.

Social Security planning has very many factors that must be considered – for example:

  • It’s important to consider earnings from your job if you’re filing early and continuing to work (see Social Security Earnings Tests for more information), as this can impact the amount of benefits you actually receive.
  • Your health status and longevity are critical to the equation as well – since delaying strategies often rely on your longevity to achieve payback (more information in the article Your Payback from Social Security).
  • Of course, your marital status is important to the equation as well. If you’re married, you should think about Spousal Benefits and Survivor Benefits in addition to your own benefit. And if you’re divorced or widowed, additional considerations must be brought into the equation as well.
  • Probably the most important of all – do you need the money right now? Too often this factor is overlooked in our zeal to “get our money back”. As you’ll see in this article on delaying benefits, it can be very worth your while to delay receiving benefits – but again, this shouldn’t be done blindly.

Each individual’s circumstances has other factors to consider as well. Your overall retirement plan has to be the context against which these factors should be considered.

As you take these factors and others into account, it’s important to perform break-even analysis on your benefits at various ages, along with that of your spouse (if you have one). Then it’s up to you to decide what makes the most sense in your situation. If you have a trusted advisor that you can work with to help you with your analysis, all the better.

And lastly, if I can help you with this analysis, this is what I do for a living. As always, I am happy to help you understand the nuances of the various programs and all – the only thing I ask of you is that you pass the word along to your friends and acquaintances. It’s my hope that when questions about Social Security and other financial issues come up, I can help.


  1. Bill Cason says:

    Jim, I enjoy your posts and always find them useful. In particular regarding this one I would like take you up on your offer to help analyze a social security problem we are pondering. I’ve posted the issue to several of the “ai” services and am getting conflicting advice. How should I proceed?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can send me an email to and detail your situation/questions. Then we can take it from there…

  2. Keith says:

    I wish, Jim, that you had talked not only about break-even analysis but about “longevity insurance.” Given that Social Security can be thought of as an inflation-protected annuity, shouldn’t anyone seeking to protect against longevity risk (and especially married couples) consider the benefits of delaying to, or close to, age 70? To then be annoyed if you “purchase” such insurance — increased lifetime benefits by delaying — but never use it — because, say, you die earlier than the break-even point — seems too similar to deciding it had been stupid to have fire insurance because your house never burned down.

    What am I missing?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Couldn’t agree more, I often do make that same comparison. If more people thought of SS as longevity insurance there would probably be better decisions made with filing.

  3. Scott says:

    Great post Jim, listing the key factors, but stating there are many others. So many articles push the claim at 70 approach, without addressing monetary need or health, so kudos for listing them. As to other considerations, two that get little mention, but may have significant impact are:

    Many people approaching the claiming age window may be lucky enough to still have a parent (s) alive. If so, those parents are of an age where LTC becomes very likely. Understanding they and their parents will handle LTC, personally and financially may have an impact on their claiming choices.

    Those who anticipate the possibility of leaving a legacy may want to consider their heirs’ tax situation, when exploring claiming options. Someone without heirs, who plans to leave their estate to charity, might claim early, keeping the maximum amount in tax-differed accounts. Alternatively, someone whose heirs are in a higher marginal tax bracket (or may/will be) than their own might delay till 70, either drawing down for expenses or performing ROTH conversions, to minimize their heirs post-demise tax burden. The latter example is especially significant given the SECURE Act’s 10-year withdrawal timeline, which could easily drive heirs into a higher marginal bracket. When exploring this issue, all tax impact issues come into play, e.g., ACA subsidies, EITC, CTC, etc. I’m sure other legacy scenarios exist.

    Thanks for your ongoing educational efforts!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Excellent points!

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