Critter Corner: Social Security Strategies for Solo Agers

Dear Angel,

I am 61 and considering whether to take my Social Security benefits next year or to wait. I am single and don’t have any children. Do you have any tips for someone in my situation?

Thanks for your help!

Earl Lee-Orwaite

Dear Earl,

Many seniors wonder whether to take Social Security benefits early or to wait. As you likely know, it’s important to make the most of your Social Security income.

How Social Security Benefits Are Calculated

Your Social Security benefits are calculated based on your earnings during your 35 highest-paid years in the workforce. From there, the age at which you file determines your monthly benefit. You can do the following when it comes to claiming benefits:

Claim at full retirement age (FRA), which is either 66, 67, or somewhere in between. Depending on your year of birth, you’ll get the monthly benefit you’re entitled to based on your earnings record.
File before FRA, starting at age 62, for a reduced benefit, or
Delay your benefits past FRA and boost them by 8% a year up to age 70.

Tips for Solo Agers When it Comes to Claiming Social Security

Married couples can claim benefits at separate times to generate income from one spouse earlier on in retirement while also letting the benefits of the other spouse to grow. When you’re single, however, you don’t get that option, so timing your filing just right is crucial. With that in mind, here are three strategies to look at when you’re navigating retirement solo.

1. File for benefits at FRA

Claiming benefits before FRA when you’re single could be a bad idea, as doing so leaves you with a lower monthly benefit for life. It might pay to wait until FRA to sign up for Social Security. That way, you’re not waiting too long to get your money, but you’re also not reducing your benefits.

2. Delay benefits until age 70

When you are single, you have just your own Social Security income to live on, and not a second set of benefits. So, delaying your filing all the way until age 70 could make sense. That way, you’ll get the maximum monthly benefit possible, which could help compensate for the fact that you’re going it alone financially.

3. File early — but not too early

Some seniors can’t afford to delay their benefits past FRA, or even wait until FRA. If health problems or workplace changes have made it so you can’t continue to work full time or at all, you may have no choice but to claim Social Security prior to reaching FRA. If that’s the case, try postponing your filing as long as possible to minimize the hit to your benefits.

While your retirement savings might eventually run out, Social Security will continue to pay you a monthly benefit for as long as you live, so do your best to file for it strategically.

Hope this is helpful.

Angel

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