Delay Social Security, Increase Your Benefits

NEW BERLIN, Ill. ( TheStreet) -- It's usually best, for most things in the financial world, to act now rather than wait around. The notable exception is in applying for Social Security benefits. We've discussed it before, but it is an important point that needs more emphasis. As you'll see from the table below, if you were born after 1943 (that's you, boomers!) you can increase the amount of your Social Security benefit by 8% for every year you delay getting benefits after your full retirement age.

If you are delaying your retirement beyond FRA, you'll increase the amount of benefit you are eligible to get. Depending upon your year of birth, this amount will be between 7% and 8% per year that you delay -- which can be an increase of as much as 32.5% if you delay until age 70 and were born in 1941, when your FRA is 65 years and eight months and the increase amount is 7.5% per year at that age. Look at the increase amounts per year based upon birth year:

So you can see the impact of delaying receipt of retirement benefits -- it can amount to more than 50% of the Primary Insurance Amount when you consider early benefits versus late benefits. Of course, by taking benefits later, you're forgoing receipt of some monthly benefit payments; given this, early in the game you'd be ahead in terms of total benefit received. This tends to go away as the break-even point is reached -- in your mid-70s to early 80s in most cases, which we'll review in a later article.

Here's an example of the benefit of delay in action: You were born in 1954, and as such your FRA is age 66. According to the benefit statement you've received from Social Security, you are eligible for a monthly benefit payment of $2,000 when you reach your FRA (which would be in 2020). If you delayed applying for your benefit until the next year, your monthly benefit payment would be $2,160 per month -- an increase of $1,920 per year. If you delayed until age 68 (two years after FRA), the monthly payment would be increased to $2,320, for an annual increase of $3,840. At age 69, delaying would increase your annual benefit by $5,760 and, at age 70, your monthly payment would be $2,640 for an annual benefit of $31,680 -- $7,680 more than at FRA. This amounts to a 32% increase in your benefit by delaying receipt of the benefit by four years!

It's important to note that this is not a compounding increase -- that is, your potentially increased benefit from one year is not multiplied by the increase for the following year. The factor for each year (or portion of a year) is simply added to the factor from prior years. You also don't have to wait a full year to achieve the benefit; this delay is calculated on a monthly basis, so if you delayed by six months your increase would be 4% over the FRA amount. The biggest benefit of this is that you can not only increase the amount you will get over your lifetime, but also the survivor benefit your spouse will get upon your passing. For some folks this can make a huge difference as they plan for the inevitable.

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