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Experts: Beware of Taking Your Social Security Too Early

It pays to wait to take Social Security, but many older Americans don't realize just how much it pays to wait. Credit: Kameleon/
It pays to wait to take Social Security, but many older Americans don't realize just how much it pays to wait. Credit: Kameleon/
November 17, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Californians planning for retirement and wondering what the best age may be to start receiving Social Security may want to wait a few additional years, according to experts, who say waiting can pay off in a big way.

Americans are able to begin receiving Social Security benefits at 62, but those benefits will be permanently reduced for each year they are taken before age 66.

Kristen Arnold, income security policy analyst at the National Academy for Social Insurance, says a majority of seniors in the Golden State are shortchanging themselves.

"More than 66 percent of beneficiaries in California have their monthly benefits reduced due to taking Social Security early," she says. "People are leaving money on the table."

Of course, many simply can't afford to wait because of poor health, a job loss or lack of adequate savings, in which case Arnold says they should start claiming benefits. But those who can wait until age 66 receive their full benefits, indefinitely – and those who can afford to hold off until age 70 will see a substantial jump in benefits.

Arnold says the monthly check can be worth up to 76 percent more than it would have been had they taken the money at age 62.

"If you're working, you don't have to take Social Security," she says. "You can wait and, for each year you wait, your monthly benefits will increase by eight percent. And that monthly increase in benefits lasts for as long as you live."

Arnold adds that Californians shouldn't take benefits early out of fear that Social Security might run out of money. It is fully funded for the next 20 years, and 75 percent funded after that.

The National Academy for Social Insurance offers an online toolkit to help older Americans make the Social Security decision.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA