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Get the most out of your Social Security Benefits

For most of us, Social Security is the single most powerful financial asset in retirement. It provides 90% of income in retirement for 22% of married couples and 47% of singles.  It provides at least half of the income in retirement for 52% of married couples and 74% of singles. It is integral to the retirement income plan of all but the very wealthy.

Separate the decision of when to retire from when to claim Social Security.

Developing a strategy to maximize your lifetime Social Security benefits results in more income and greater insurance protection in your later years. Individuals can begin collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62 (earlier for widow(er)s and the disabled) and as late as age 70. If you begin collecting benefits before your full retirement age, the benefit amount is reduced. Postponing benefits until after your Full Retirement Age, increases your benefit.

So is it better to receive a smaller monthly amount sooner or a larger monthly amount later?

The majority of people begin collecting their benefits as soon as they are eligible at age 62. This can result in much lower lifetime benefits. Use ourSocial Security Decision Treeto map out to determine the best strategy for you.

If you delay taking Social Security, part-time work and extra portfolio withdrawals can help meet cash flow needs. Given a guaranteed 8% benefit increase for each year of delay beyond Full Retirement Age, this is among the most important strategies to increase financial security in retirement.

CAUTION! The folks at the Social Security Administration may not be familiar with these strategies. They may tell you that you can't do them. If so, ask for a supervisor.

 These strategies do not apply to Federal CSRS retirees.

<NEXT: Advantages of Delaying Social Security>



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