How to Maximize Your Social Security Benefits at Age 62 and 66

Claiming age plays a crucial role in determining the amount of your monthly Social Security benefit. As retirees heavily rely on Social Security income, it is necessary for future generations to familiarize themselves with the factors that can influence their benefits and understand the impact of their claiming age.

To calculate your Social Security benefit, there are four essential puzzle pieces: work history, earnings history, full retirement age, and claiming age.

The Social Security Administration takes into account your 35 highest-earning, inflation-adjusted years when calculating your benefit. Working for a minimum of 35 years can help maximize your benefit.

Your full retirement age, determined by your birth year, is when you can receive 100% of your retired-worker benefit. Unfortunately, this is the only component that you have no control over.

However, the claiming age, the fourth piece of the puzzle, can significantly affect your benefits.

While you can claim benefits as early as age 62, being patient and waiting until age 70 can increase your Social Security check by as much as 24% to 32%, depending on your birth year.

Age 62 is a popular claiming age as it allows retirees access to their benefit as soon as possible. However, it comes with a permanent reduction of 25% to 30%. On the other hand, age 66 has gained prominence as a midpoint in the traditional claiming age range.

Waiting four years post-eligibility can minimize the permanent reduction in monthly benefits for future retirees.

To provide some insight into the average benefits received at ages 62 and 66, data from the Social Security Administration's Office of the Actuary shows that, as of December 2023, over 590,000 retired-worker beneficiaries were receiving $1,298.26 per month at age 62, compared to about 2.11 million aged 66 retired-worker beneficiaries who were taking home $1,739.92 per month.

This indicates that age 62 claimants receive approximately 25% less per month than age 66 beneficiaries.

While there is no definitive answer as to which claiming age is best, a study conducted by United Income suggests that most retired workers do not optimize their claims.

The study found that later claims would have overwhelmingly generated the highest lifetime income. In fact, an age 70 claim was shown to be the most beneficial in hindsight.

Ultimately, the decision of when to claim your Social Security benefits depends on various factors such as financial needs, marital status, and personal health.

However, understanding the impact of your claiming age and weighing your options can help you maximize your Social Security benefits and secure your financial future in retirement.

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