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Expert: Consider Waiting for Social Security

Many Floridians miss out on tens of thousands of dollars by claiming Social Security benefits early, according to new data. Courtesy: Social Security Administration
Many Floridians miss out on tens of thousands of dollars by claiming Social Security benefits early, according to new data. Courtesy: Social Security Administration
November 16, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - They are among the most important decisions older Americans, face when to stop working and sign up for Social Security and experts say the majority of Floridians leave money on the table by not considering all the options.

Most people think of reaching retirement age and collecting Social Security as going hand in hand.

Kristen Arnold, income security policy analyst with the National Academy for Social Insurance, says for seniors who need the income due to health factors or unemployment, that might be the case. But for those who can make a strategic decision about Social Security, she says the payoff can be big.

"The benefits are there to make sure you're not in poverty in old age," says Arnold. "But if you have some flexibility, if you have other sources of income, if you're still working, if you're still healthy you might consider waiting to take benefits."

Since benefits increase each year you delay taking them, Arnold says claiming them at age 70 instead of age 62 can increase a person's lifetime benefit amount by as much as 76 percent, which amounts to tens of thousands of dollars.

However, 62 remains the most prevalent age for claiming Social Security benefits, according to the most recent data.

If possible, Arnold recommends talking through the decision with a qualified financial planner, or trusted friends and family. Right now, she says, many Floridians are losing out.

"Almost three-fourths of Social-Security beneficiaries in Florida have reduced monthly benefits, because they started Social Security early," says Arnold.

Among the reasons people sometimes cite for claiming benefits early is a belief that congressional squabbles and government problems could cause Social Security to run out of money.

Arnold says that theory simply doesn't hold water.

"Your personal decision on when to take benefits will not affect Social Security's finances, and the program's finances are much stronger than many people may realize," says Arnold.

She adds that Social Security is fully financed for the next 15 to 20 years, and roughly 75 percent financed beyond that. A toolkit to to help with decisions about when to claim Social Security is available online, at www.nasi.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL