Social Security: How It Pays to Wait

The longer you delay claiming Social Security, the bigger your monthly benefits check.

But your decision on when to take it probably should be based on more than just that. There are numerous factors to consider.

"Part of taking it early is a lifestyle decision," said Richard Rosso, a planner and financial consultant for Charles Schwab & Co. in Houston. "But if you don't need those funds immediately, you need to use a calculator, analyze longevity in your family, take your spouse's age and health into account and generally consider all the dimensions of the decision."

The Schwab Center for Financial Research offers the following breakdown on the decision on whether to wait or not:

CONSIDER TAKING BENEFITS EARLIER IF:

— You're no longer working and really can't make ends meet without your benefits.

— You're in poor health and don't expect to make it to average life expectancy.

— You're the lower-earning spouse and your higher-earning spouse can wait to file for a higher benefit.

CONSIDER WAITING TO TAKE BENEFITS IF:

— You're still working and make enough to impact the taxability of your benefits. (At least wait until your normal retirement age so benefits aren't further reduced due to earnings.)

— You're in good health and expect to exceed average life expectancy.

— You're the higher-earning spouse and want to be sure your surviving spouse receives the highest possible benefit.

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