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When Should I Start Collecting Social Security?

Question: Is it better to collect Social Security now—when I’m 62 and working part-time—or to wait? I don’t need the money for living expenses, but I’d be able to invest it.

– Joan Bernard, New York City

Answer: Nice idea to put that money to work—but many financial planners advise against tapping Social Security too early, since at age 62 a person receives only three-fourths of his or her full retirement benefit. You’d need to make at least 7.5 percent in the markets each of the next four years (the time you’d wait before being able to collect 100 percent of your benefit) in order to break even—no easy feat these days, says Natalie Briaud Pine, a financial adviser in College Station, Texas. Another consideration: You may be subject to Social Security’s annual earnings test. And even part-time work can result in a reduced benefit in the short term.


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    • I’m with the other commenters. Better to wait the extra years and get the full draw. Assuming you can make it in this volatile market would be a mistake. You would be at the mercy of so many outside influences that you may actually lose money. What happens to Europe? What about China? Too many variables to risk

    • John RL, it takes 14 years to break even. That is why my wife is going to take the money and run at 62. Secondly, I am getting a public employee pension so if she predeceases me I will not get any of her benefit because of GPO. (Government Pension Offset)

    • Always a good question; now or later? One definitely should do the math. I have two years left to make the decision, 62 or 66. For one, how many years will it take, at age 66, to recoup the 4 years of SS benefits I would have received stating at age 62. Two, what effect would waiting have on my 401K withdrawals/balance? And of course,continued employment, marital status, investment returns all need to be considered. Right now, I’m leaning towards 62.

    • Another item to factor in is that waiting provides not only larger payments for you, but also for your spouse for as long as either one of you lives. It’s a form of insurance, guaranteed by the government (for whatever that’s worth) and indexed to inflation (for whatever that’s worth). To repeat, do your own math.

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