Should I delay Social Security retirement benefits or file a claim when I stop working?

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Today’s Social Security column addresses the questions of whether to delay filing after quitting work early, if there’s a reason to delay filing past age 70, and benefits potential for a surviving spouse with two young children. Larry Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

See more Ask Larry to answer here.

Do you have questions about social security that you would like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


Should I delay Social Security retirement benefits or file a claim when I stop working?

Hi Larry, I plan to retire in three months at 64 1/2. I am healthy. Friends and family who live four hours away might need my help now, so it’s important to have the time to do so. I also want to travel while I am healthy.

I have $75,000 in cash saved and about $1 million in retirement savings (including $130,000 in Roth and HSA). My social security retirement benefit at FRA (66 and 10 months) will be around $2,600. I will have a small pension at 65.

Should I delay collecting Social Security until FRA and live off the money and my 401k for a year or more? Where should I start benefits when I stop working? Thank you Jonas

Hi Jonah, You don’t mention any marital history so I don’t know whether or not you might be eligible for survivor benefits now or in the future. If survivor benefits will never be an option for you, then it seems you’d be better off waiting until age 70 to claim your benefits.

As long as you don’t apply for your Social Security retirement benefits until age 70, your permanent monthly benefit rate will continue to increase on average about 8% per year until you reach age 70. This is true even if you are not working.

Rather than relying on my advice, you might want to consider using my company’s software – Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner – to ensure your household receives the highest benefits for life. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or nonprofit organizations may provide appropriate suggestions if constructed with extreme care.

This way, you will be able to compare your options so you can decide which deposit strategy would be best to maximize your benefits. Best, Larry


Would it make a difference if I retired the month I turned 70 or if I retired two months later?

Hi Larry, I will be 70 in November 2024, so my full retirement age is 66. Is there a difference in my monthly benefit if I retire in November 2024 versus waiting until January 2025 to retire? Thank you Molly

Hi Molly, By “retirement” I assume you are referring to the month you claim your Social Security retirement benefits. In this case, the answer is no, except that you would lose two months of benefits if you waited until January.

You cannot earn Deferred Retirement Credits (DRCs) for months beginning with the month you turn 70, so waiting until after November 2024 in your case will not increase your benefit rate.

However, if by “retirement” you mean stopping work, then working an extra two months could result in a marginal increase in your benefit rate. Social Security retirement benefits are based on an average of the best 35 years of earnings indexed to a person’s Social Security covered wages. benefit rate at least somewhat.

Regardless of when a person stops working, there would be no benefit to waiting past age 70 to claim their Social Security retirement benefits. Best, Larry


What benefits can I claim?

Hi Larry, My wife passed away at 33 from covid 19. We have two children together. What benefits are you entitled to from Social Security? Thank you Paul

Hello Paul, I am truly sorry for your loss. If your wife has worked and contributed to Social Security long enough to be insured for survivor benefits, it seems your children would likely qualify for child survivor benefits.

And assuming one or both of them are your dependents and they’re under 16 or disabled, you might be eligible for father’s benefits. There is also potentially a one-time death benefit of $255 that you may be eligible for.

I would suggest calling Social Security at 800-772-1213 to verify your eligibility and possibly schedule an appointment to apply for benefits. Best, Larry



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