Answering These 2 Questions Can Tell You When You Should Sign Up for Social Security | The Motley Fool (2024)

The timing of when you start taking benefits will have a permanent effect on the size your monthly checks, so weigh your options carefully.

The earliest age at which people are eligible to claim Social Security -- 62 -- remains one of the most popular. Doing so provides them with benefits for the longest possible period, and nets them the largest number of checks. But statistics say that most people would receive the largest possible lifetime benefit by not taking Social Security until they turn 70, when they would qualify for the biggest checks.

It's a conundrum for workers: Should they claim early to get the most checks, or should they delay and try to cover their near-term expenses with other funds in the hope of coming out ahead over the long term? Or should they compromise by picking a claiming age in the middle -- perhaps at what the government defines as their full retirement age (FRA)?

Your ideal solution will depend on your situation. But answering the two questions below can help you figure it out.

1. What do you anticipate your financial situation being like at 62?

Delaying the date at which you claim Social Security can maximize your lifetime benefit, but it means you'll have to cover your expenses on your own for longer. This might be easy if you have a large nest egg or are still working at a steady job. But not everyone can do this.

The prospect of getting bigger Social Security checks in the future isn't worth it if delaying your application strains your finances right now. If you won't be able to keep a roof over your head without Social Security, your choice is pretty simple: Claim early, and use those monthly checks to help you maintain your financial security.

2. How long do you expect to live?

If it's financially feasible for you to delay taking Social Security, you can be more flexible. Your goal then is probably to maximize your lifetime benefit. Life expectancy is key here.

Those who don't expect to live past their 70s generally do better by claiming early, as it enables them to receive as many checks as possible. One risk of delaying your application date is that you might die before you start taking benefits, in which case, you'll get nothing from the program.

If you think you'll live into your 80s or beyond, though, there are advantages to delaying your application. The Social Security Administration increases the size of your checks for every month you put off claiming until you qualify for your maximum benefit at 70. The rates at which your checks grow will depend on your current age and your full retirement age (which for everyone who is not retired yet will be between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year).

The following table outlines how quickly Social Security checks increase over time for the two most common FRAs: 66 and 67.

Social Security Checks Grow By:

FRA of 66

FRA of 67

5/12 of 1% per month (5% per year) from:

62 to 63

62 to 64

5/9 of 1% per month (6.67% per year) from:

63 to 66

64 to 67

2/3 of 1% per month (8% per year) from:

66 to 70

67 to 70

Source: Social Security Administration.

Waiting just one month could raise the average $1,915 Social Security benefit (as of April 2024) by $8 to $13 per month. Delaying until you're 70 could add hundreds of dollars to your monthly benefit, but only you can decide if you're comfortable doing this.

Obviously, none of us know how long we'll live, but you may be able to get a rough idea based on your personal and family health histories. The average 62-year-old male today can expect to live until about 83.6 while the average 62-year-old female is projected to live until 86.4.

To determine which claiming age will net you the most money overall, you must estimate what kind of lifetime benefit each claiming age could give you. Start by creating a my Social Security account -- if you haven't already. After creating your login and answering some identity verification questions, you'll be able to access a tool that will let you see your estimated Social Security benefits at any claiming age you pick based on your work history to date. You can also adjust the future income projections it bases those figures on.

Choose a few claiming ages you're considering and multiply the monthly benefits from each of them by 12 to get your estimated annual benefit. For example, a $2,000 monthly benefit would give you a $24,000 annual benefit. Then, multiply this amount by the number of years you expect to claim Social Security. If you receive a $24,000 benefit for 20 years, that's a $480,000 lifetime benefit. Go with the age that offers the largest lifetime benefit whenever possible if you can afford to delay your application that long.

Answering These 2 Questions Can Tell You When You Should Sign Up for Social Security | The Motley Fool (2024)


What questions do they ask when signing up for Social Security? ›

Information About You

Your date and place of birth and Social Security number; 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 appropriate);

When to sign up for Social Security? ›

You can start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, you are entitled to full benefits when you reach your full retirement age. If you delay taking your benefits from your full retirement age up to age 70, your benefit amount will increase.

Why are Americans getting $4800 from Social Security? ›

People who want to claim these benefits will get it on the basis of lot of conditions like age, file status, income range, and many other criteria. The fundamental goal of $4800 social security payment 2024 is to help citizens cope up with increased cost of living.

How do I get the $16728 Social Security bonus? ›

Have you heard about the Social Security $16,728 yearly bonus? There's really no “bonus” that retirees can collect. The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a specific formula based on your lifetime earnings to determine your benefit amount.

How to answer disability interview questions? ›

Answer honestly: Never embellish the facts or mislead the interviewer about your medical condition or how it's affecting you. If you truly do have a disability that's preventing you from working, this will become evident when answering truthfully. At the same time, don't downplay your condition.

How do I pass a Social Security disability interview? ›

Being consistent in your responses is essential to build credibility. Prepare for Questions – Expect questions about your medical history, work history, and daily routine. Be ready to discuss your diagnosis, symptoms, treatments, and any adjustments you've had to make due to your disability.

How long does it take to get my first Social Security check after I apply? ›

Your first check won't arrive until the month after the one you pick in your application. You can apply any time up to four months before the month you pick. For example, you want your first check in April.

At what age is Social Security no longer taxed? ›

Social Security income can be taxable no matter how old you are. It all depends on whether your total combined income exceeds a certain level set for your filing status. You may have heard that Social Security income is not taxed after age 70; this is false.

Can I draw Social Security at 62 and still work full time? ›

You can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time. However, if you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, we will reduce your benefits. Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, we will not reduce your benefits no matter how much you earn.

What are the three ways you can lose your Social Security? ›

Social Security: 4 Ways You Can Lose Your Benefits
  • You Forfeit Up To 30% of Your Benefits by Claiming Early. ...
  • You'll Get Less If You Claim Early and Earn Too Much Money. ...
  • The SSA Suspends Payments If You Go To Jail or Prison. ...
  • You Can Lose Some of Your Benefits to Taxes. ...
  • You Can Lose SSDI in a Few Different Ways.
May 22, 2024

What's the average Social Security check? ›

Social Security offers a monthly benefit check to many kinds of recipients. As of December 2023, the average check is $1,767.03, according to the Social Security Administration – but that amount can differ drastically depending on the type of recipient. In fact, retirees typically make more than the overall average.

At what age do you get 100% of your Social Security? ›

The full retirement age is 66 if you were born from 1943 to 1954. The full retirement age increases gradually if you were born from 1955 to 1960 until it reaches 67. For anyone born 1960 or later, full retirement benefits are payable at age 67.

What is the Social Security 5 year rule? ›

Depending on your income, you can earn up to four credits a year. In 2024, workers earn one Social Security and Medicare credit for $1,730 in covered earnings. Under the five-year rule, people 31 and older must have worked at least five out of the last 10 years to be eligible for SSDI.

Who qualifies for an extra $144 added to their Social Security? ›

You must be enrolled in Original Medicare and pay your Part B premiums without state or local financial aid to be eligible for the giveback. Only some Medicare Advantage Plans offer this benefit, and in select service areas.

Who qualifies for the $1657 Social Security check? ›

One must either be over the age of sixty-five, blind and/or disabled. Additionally, they must have a limited income and resources as the program is need-based and aims to assist beneficiaries to cover basic costs for food and shelter.

What questions does SSA ask in an interview? ›

The disability interview questions for SSDI and SSI applicants cover topics such as your demographics, medical history, and work history. SSI applicants will also need to answer questions about their income and assets. These questions help the SSA get a better idea of your assets so they can determine your eligibility.

What questions will I be asked at my Social Security hearing? ›

Questions You Should Expect To Be Asked During A Social Security Disability Hearing
  • What is your formal education?
  • Do you have any vocational training?
  • Are you currently working?
  • What was your last job and what were your job responsibilities?
  • Have you tried working since you became disabled?

What questions does Social Security ask to verify identity? ›

If you want to verify your identity with Social Security, you will be required to provide a US driver's license, US passport, state-issued ID, and US military ID. For age verification, you may be required to provide your birth certificate, US passport, or a US hospital record of your date of birth.

What information does Social Security ask for? ›

Documents we may ask for include: Your Social Security card or a record of your number. Your original birth certificate, a copy certified by the issuing agency, or other proof of your age. We must see the original document(s), or copies certified by the agency that issued them.

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