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Delaying Social Security Means Bigger Benefits

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Starting to receive Social Security at 70 instead of 62 increases benefits by 76 percent. Credit: Huskyherz/pixabay.com
Starting to receive Social Security at 70 instead of 62 increases benefits by 76 percent. Credit: Huskyherz/pixabay.com
November 16, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A lot of older Pennsylvanians are getting reduced Social Security retirement benefits because they start collecting before reaching full retirement age - and experts say waiting a few years can really pay off.

People as young as 62 can start getting benefits, and many still think of 65 as the age to stop working. But to get full Social Security benefits, the retirement age is now 66. And as Kristen Arnold of the National Academy for Social Insurance pointed out, if you're still able to work, the longer you go, the bigger your benefit will be.

"For each year you wait, your monthly benefits will increase by 8 percent," she said, "and that monthly increase in benefits lasts for as long as you live."

According to government data, more than three-quarters of Pennsylvanians on Social Security are getting reduced retirement benefits because they started collecting early.

Those who begin collecting at age 70, the oldest age to start, get benefits that are 76 percent higher than those who start at 62. But many factors go into deciding when to retire, and Arnold said there are circumstances when taking Social Security earlier is the right choice.

"If you lose your job, or if you have a physically demanding job and you need to quit working and take benefits to make ends meet, Social Security is there for you," she said. "You should take the benefits."

Those who can't work because of a health condition may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits that are not based on age.

Some people may apply for retirement benefits early out of fear that the program is running out of money. However, Arnold said projected shortfalls are years down the road, and Congress has many options to fix the problem before that time arrives.

"Social Security is fully financed for the next 15 to 20 years," she said, "and about 75 percent fully financed after that."

Her organization has a toolkit to help with decisions about when to claim Social Security, which is available online at nasi.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA