What Should I Consider Before Taking Social Security?

Should I take it early? Take it later? Continue to work? Your decisions around Social Security can make a big impact on your retirement – especially considering that Social Security Administration estimates say it makes up about 40% of the average 65-year-old's retirement income today. 

When and how you take Social Security is a personal and complex decision – and it needs to be made with your entire financial picture in mind. Your financial advisor can walk you through various scenarios based on your specific situation, including the age you plan to begin claiming benefits, marital status, etc., to help you decide what makes the most sense for you.

As a starting point, you'll need to begin to think about a few things.

Is it better to take it early or wait?

If you begin taking your benefit at what the Social Security Administration considers Full Retirement Age (FRA) – generally 66 or 67 – you will receive 100% of your benefit. However, many people begin taking benefits earlier or later. The difference of just a few years can have a significant impact on how much you receive. And if you're married, your decision does not just affect you, it could also affect how much your spouse could receive when you pass away. Ultimately, your decisions should be made based on a variety of factors. Learn more with our Social Security resources.

What additional benefits are available for spouses?

If you are married, you can generally receive the higher of your full retirement benefit or 50% of your spouse's full retirement benefit. The amount will be reduced if you take your benefits before your FRA.

What if I plan on working after I "retire"?

Many people choose to work longer or work part time. But if you earn more than a certain amount (in 2015, the limits are $15,720 for years before your FRA, $41,880 in the year of your FRA), some of your benefits may be withheld if you haven’t reached your full retirement age. If you plan to work while you receive Social Security benefits, the Retirement Earnings Test Calculator at www.ssa.gov can help you determine the impact. Unearned income (such as investments) won't reduce your benefit, but you should consider all income sources in your planning.

What if I'm divorced or widowed?

Spousal benefits may also be available for divorced spouses, depending on how long you were married.

If you're a surviving spouse, you can receive the higher of your own benefit or up to 100% of the deceased spouse's benefit, whichever is higher. This means that when you take Social Security could have an impact not only on your income when you are alive but also for your surviving spouse when you pass away. Talk to your local financial advisor or go to www.ssa.gov for more information on spousal and survivor benefits.

What other types of retirement benefits might I be entitled to?

Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to disabled or dependent benefits. We recommend talking to the Social Security Administration for more information.

The decisions you make about Social Security can impact your retirement significantly. 

How we can help

Talk to your local financial advisor. We can help explain what it all means and sort through some of the complexities – including the effects of when you decide to claim, spousal benefits and taxes. You can also learn more by visiting our Social Security Resources.

Find a Financial Advisor

Find a Financial Advisor

Select a State and then enter a last name

    What's your vision?

    Many women share experiences and trends that may be different from what men experience.

    Read more

    Understanding Social Security Options

    Consider your options when it comes to when to start taking Social Security.

    Read more