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JUNE 9, 2021

When should I start collecting Social Security benefits?

Answered by
Ben Storey
Director, Retirement Thought Leadership, Bank of America
You can start collecting your Social Security benefits at age 62. But at that age you'll only receive approximately 70%-75% of what you'll get if you wait until your "full retirement age," or the age at which you're eligible to receive your full benefit. (See chart below.) Every year that you delay taking benefits beyond your full retirement age — up to age 70 — the larger your monthly benefit will be for the rest of your life.
What's your Full Retirement Age?
Your Full Retirement Age — the date when you can receive 100% of your Social Security benefits — depends on the year in which you were born.
66 years
Born between years 1943 - 1954
66 years 
+2 months
Year born 1955
66 years 
+4 months
Year born 1956
66 years 
+6 months
Year born 1957
66 years 
+8 months
Year born 1958
66 years 
+10 months
Year born 1959
67 years
Year born 1960 
and later
There are many factors to consider when deciding when to file, such as whether you'll be working during retirement or when your spouse may be collecting Social Security benefits. However, choosing when to collect your benefits is up to you. If you can wait until age 70 to claim Social Security, your monthly benefit can increase by as much as 32%Footnote 1 over the amount you'd collect if you'd begun withdrawing at your full retirement age. Those higher monthly benefits could add up to higher cumulative benefits over the course of your retirement. The potential for higher annual payouts could help with expenses that may increase with age, such as medical costs.
The longer your life expectancy, the more sense it may make to wait to collect Social Security benefits.
Bear in mind that if you claim benefits before your full retirement age and are still working, your benefits could be reduced. The timing of when you collect could also affect your spouse's benefits if he or she outlives you. Collecting early could potentially result in a lower survivor benefit for him or her, while delaying could increase it.
Before you decide what timing is right for you, you need to consider your personal situation and weigh a number of factors. The best time to claim Social Security benefits depends on your marital status, health, family history, employment status and financial needs.
The longer your life expectancy, the more sense it may make to wait to collect Social Security benefits. For women, who typically live longer than men and may have saved less, waiting could be especially beneficial.

If waiting increases payments, why would anyone take benefits sooner?

You may want to claim Social Security benefits earlier if your parents or grandparents didn't live past 75, if you're in poor health, or if you know you'll need the money before you reach full retirement age.
For married couples with similar earnings, it could be worthwhile for the higher earner to wait until age 70, while the lower earner begins claiming benefits as soon as he or she reaches full retirement age. That way the couple can have a source of additional income if they need it sooner, while still potentially maximizing the amount one of them receives later on.
There's no one right answer for when to claim Social Security benefits. It all depends on your individual situation — and it really is one of the most important decisions you'll make as you near retirement. Be sure to consult your legal and/or tax advisor when making decisions about when to start collecting Social Security benefits.
Ready to get started?
Footnote 1 Applies to individuals born between 1943 and 1954 with a Full Retirement Age of 66.

Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.
You have choices about what to do with your employer-sponsored retirement plan accounts. Depending on your financial circumstances, needs and goals, you may choose to roll over to an IRA or convert to a Roth IRA, roll over an employer-sponsored plan from your old job to your new employer, take a distribution, or leave the account where it is. Each choice may offer different investment options and services, fees and expenses, withdrawal options, required minimum distributions, tax treatment, and different types of protection from creditors and legal judgments. These are complex choices and should be considered with care. For more information on rolling over your IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or SEP IRA, visit our rollover page or call a Merrill rollover specialist at 888.637.3343.
This material should be regarded as general information on Social Security considerations and is not intended to provide specific social security advice. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, please contact your legal or tax advisor.

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