Age 62 is the earliest you can begin claiming Social Security benefits, and it's also the most popular age to file. In fact, nearly half of Americans start taking benefits at age 62, a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found.
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Although you'd receive bigger checks each month by waiting to file, there are a few reasons why claiming as early as possible can be a wise financial move.
1. It could pay off if you live a shorter-than-average lifespan
The biggest downside to claiming early is that it will shrink your monthly payments. However, if you expect you won't spend decades in retirement, claiming early could actually result in receiving more money in total.
You may not receive as much each month when you claim early, but you will receive a greater number of payments than if you'd delayed claiming benefits. If you end up living a shorter-than-average lifespan, those smaller checks could add up to more than what you'd receive had you waited to claim.
Even if you're unsure of how long you'll live (it is nearly impossible to accurately predict your lifespan, after all), sometimes claiming early is the best way to play it safe. You could live to be 100 years old, or unexpected health issues could crop up when you're relatively young. Delaying benefits means betting on longevity, and that could be a risky move.
2. You may need the extra cash
Not everyone has the luxury of choosing when to retire, and many Americans end up retiring sooner than they expect. In fact, around 40% of retirees say they retired earlier than planned, commonly as a result of health issues or job loss, according to a survey from the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement.
If you end up retiring before you're financially ready, Social Security benefits can help bridge the gap between what you have saved and what you need to make ends meet.
3. It can help you afford to retire earlier
When you've been working for decades, you may be itching to retire as soon as possible. Additionally, if you plan to live an active lifestyle in retirement, it makes sense to retire as early as you can in order to give yourself more time to enjoy those activities when you're relatively young and healthy.
While it is possible to retire early and then hold off on claiming Social Security for a few years, not everyone can afford to live on their savings alone during that time. Claiming Social Security early can make it easier to afford early retirement, and it can also help you avoid draining your retirement fund too quickly.
Is claiming early the right decision for you?
Deciding when to file for Social Security benefits isn't easy, and there's no single correct answer as to what is the best age to claim. Although claiming early will result in receiving smaller checks each month, if you're retiring early or think you might not live as long as the average retiree, it may be one of the best retirement moves you can make.