Plan to Delay Social Security Benefits? Don’t Let 2 Myths Fool You

Delaying the start of your Social Security benefits often is the right choice. But before you go down this road, make sure you aren't falling for these two myths.

Plan to Delay Social Security Benefits? Don’t Let 2 Myths Fool You Photo by Steve Heap /

Assuming you are better off waiting to claim your Social Security retirement benefits often makes sense. But if you do it for the wrong reasons, it could cost you.

Experts often point out that if you delay claiming Social Security benefits, you will receive a larger check each month. But while that is technically true, it’s hardly the whole picture.

To determine the best age for you to start claiming Social Security, you must weigh many factors. This process can be so complicated that there are companies that specialize in helping folks make the most informed decision.

Check out “Maximize Your Social Security” to learn more about one of these companies — Social Security Choices — and how to get a discount on a personalized analysis of your claiming options.

Whether you seek outside help or make the decision on your own, make sure you don’t fall for these two myths about delaying benefits:

Myth 1: The government gives you more money if you wait

You can start claiming Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, you will get a bigger monthly payment if you delay claiming until as late as age 70. We break this down further this in “12 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Checks.”

Still, getting a bigger monthly payment does not necessarily mean you will receive more Social Security money over the course of your lifetime.

The Social Security retirement program is meant to be actuarially neutral. That’s a fancy way of saying that the federal government means for the program to give you the same total amount of retirement income regardless of the age at which you start claiming benefits.

As founder Stacy Johnson puts it in “Ask Stacy: Do I Really Need to Wait Until Age 70 to Collect Social Security?“:

“The government doesn’t reward you for waiting or penalize you for starting early. They’re simply attempting to pay you what you’re owed over your lifetime. Doing that requires smaller checks for a longer period if you take it early or larger ones for a shorter period if you wait.”

In short, the government does not give you extra money as a gift for waiting.

Myth 2: Waiting is better for everyone

Stacy is among those known to say that folks are generally better off waiting until they reach what’s known as “” — if not longer — to start claiming Social Security retirement benefits. But words like “generally” are key here.

In short, what’s better for most folks is not better for all folks. What’s best for you depends on your personal situation. That’s why it’s critical to consider every factor that might affect your monthly and lifetime Social Security payouts and weigh all of your claiming options.

Stacy continues:

“The point here is that while people like me use broad strokes to address mass audiences, we’re all different, and we shouldn’t all do the same thing. Some of us will die younger, and therefore should take as much as we can get as early as we can get it. Some of us will become too frail to enjoy life at 70. Some of us have jobs we can’t wait to quit, while others can’t imagine ever quitting. Some of us have substantial nest eggs, some of us don’t.”

Many factors — the size of your nest egg, your personal health, your family’s health history — help determine which course of action is right for you. Weigh them all before making a choice.

What factors did you weigh when deciding when to take your Social Security benefits? Share with us by commenting below or on .

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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