When should you start collecting Social Security benefits?

Social security cards

Key Points

  • Your Social Security benefits are a valuable source of retirement income that, once you begin collecting, last your entire life
  • The longer you wait to claim benefits — up to age 70 — the higher the amount you and your family can receive.
  • Your Ameriprise advisor can develop a personalized retirement income strategy that factors in Social Security benefits.

Social Security is income you cannot outlive. The age you choose to begin collecting it impacts your lifetime benefits. Your Ameriprise financial advisor will help you evaluate your Social Security benefit options to support your financial goals.


Income you can’t outlive

Social Security augments your savings and pension. Unlike some other income streams, it has the backing of the federal government and is protected against inflation.

Work with your Ameriprise advisor to make smart decisions about your retirement income. In general:

  • Five years ahead of your estimated retirement date is a good time to plan your Social Security income strategy.
  • One year out from retirement, decide when you expect to begin claiming benefits. If you have not done any prior Social Security planning, now is a critical time to do it.


Why it pays to wait

If you’re able to wait to collect benefits, it is often worth it in the long run. Although you can begin receiving Social Security as early as age 62, your monthly benefits may be reduced up to 30% for life.

Each month you delay collection increases your eligible benefits, up to a point.

  • Once you reach full retirement age, you are entitled to 100% of the benefits calculated from your lifetime earnings. Visit the Social Security website to view your full retirement age.
  • If you begin collecting Social Security at age 70 (the maximum age), your full retirement benefit will be 32% larger.
  • Postponing collection of your Social Security retirement benefits can also provide your spouse with a higher survivor benefit after your passing.


A case study: collecting early versus waiting

To illustrate the impacts of timing Social Security income, take a look at the following chart. Even though the three individuals have the same birthday and earnings history, the total Social Security income they will receive is different.

  • Emily begins collecting at age 63, at a reduced annual benefit of $9,600.
  • Tara waits until her full retirement age of 66 to collect her yearly retirement benefit of $12,000.
  • Lucy waits to collect at age 70, receiving her maximum annual benefit of $15,840.



This scenario is shown for illustrative purposes only and does not represent actual clients or actual Social Security benefits.
Actual client experiences will vary. For simplification, annual inflation adjustments have not been used.

Don’t let market pressure derail retirement income planning

Choosing to take Social Security early in response to market pressure or volatility is a permanent decision that reduces your lifetime benefits. Keep in mind that market fluctuations are part of financial planning with your advisor.

Everyone’s situation is unique. Talk with your advisor about whether your current retirement accounts and additional sources of income (including Social Security or pensions) will cover your essential expenses. If you want to retire soon, you may not need to tap into your investments, allowing you to stay invested so you won’t miss the upswing of a market recovery.


Social Security benefits for eligible family members

Social Security also provides survivor benefits (based on your earnings) for your spouse, children or parents when you pass away. In certain circumstances, waiting to collect can help increase these benefits.

If your earnings are higher than your spouse’s, putting off the collection of Social Security retirement benefits until age 70 can increase the monthly survivor benefit amount for your spouse. The same is true for your spouse if their earnings are higher than yours.

If you are eligible to begin receiving survivor benefits, deferring collection until you reach full retirement age, or beyond, can help maximize the amount you will receive.


Your advisor will develop a Social Security income strategy

If your financial situation allows, delaying your Social Security collection until age 70 can help maximize the benefit amount for you and your family. By waiting, you earn a greater monthly retirement benefit, which can then become a larger survivor benefit for eligible family members.

Your financial advisor will provide you personalized advice to help ensure you’re taking advantage of the benefits available to you.


1 Source: Social Security Administration, ssa.gov