Motley Fool
0
All posts from Motley Fool
Motley Fool in Motley Fool,

Should You Claim Social Security at 64?

There are many debates over what constitutes the best age to file for Social Security. Now when we think about taking benefits, we're generally looking at an eight-year window beginning at age 62 and ending at age 70. (Technically, you can file after 70, but since there's no financial incentive to do so, 70 is generally considered the latest age to claim benefits.) But what you need to know is that each distinct age within that eight-year period comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. Here, we'll review the benefits of filing for Social Security at 64, and also discuss why it may not be the right age for you.

Why file for Social Security at 64?

If you could claim Social Security at the earliest possible age of 62 without incurring a financial penalty, perhaps more people would rush to do so. But what motivates many seniors to hold off is that taking benefits before full retirement age (FRA) results in an automatic reduction.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Your full retirement age is based on the year you were born, as follows:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

1943-1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960

67

DATA SOURCE: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION.

When you file for benefits prior to FRA, you're subject to a 6.67% reduction for the first three years you file early, and a 5% reduction each year thereafter. That means that if your FRA is 66 and you take Social Security at 62, you'll lose 25% of your benefits.

But while 25% is a pretty hefty reduction, 13.34% isn't quite as bad. And if you have a good reason to get at those benefits at age 64, that's the only reduction you'll face.

So what constitutes a valid reason to file for benefits early? One scenario is if you've lost your job and need the income to stay afloat. Slashing your benefits may not be ideal, but it's better than racking up costly credit card debt -- debt that you could end up carrying to the grave.

Another good reason to claim benefits at age 64 is if you've saved well for retirement and therefore don't need that money, but rather want those payments so you can enjoy more activities while you're younger. It stands to reason that the older you get, the less energy you'll have, so if you're in a good place financially, it might pay to take your benefits before your health starts to decline.

And speaking of health, here's a final good reason to file for Social Security at 64. If your health is poor and you don't expect to live very long, you'll probably end up getting more out of Social Security by claiming it as early as possible. That's because the program is designed to pay you the same lifetime benefit regardless of when you first file, provided you meet your life expectancy. If you pass away sooner, then you could end up losing out. So if you're diagnosed with a health issue at 64 that shortens your life expectancy significantly, you may want to jump on those benefits immediately.

But here's when filing for Social Security at 64 isn't smart

Though there are plenty of good reasons to take your benefits at 64, it's a move that could backfire if your savings are inadequate and you're counting on Social Security to provide the bulk of your retirement income. More than 40% of households aged 55 to 64 have no retirement savings at all, according to the Economic Policy Institute. If you've reached the tail end of that spectrum, and you're staring at a $0 balance in your retirement account, then claiming benefits at 64 could compromise your long-term financial security.

Consider this: The typical Social Security recipient today collects just $16,320 a year in benefits. Now imagine lowering that total to $14,143 because you filed two years before reaching full retirement age.

In fact, if you really don't have any personal savings to show for, and you're not willing to work part-time in retirement, then losing even a small portion of your benefits could be downright catastrophic. You may, in fact, want to hold off on Social Security past your FRA, because in doing so, you'll snag an 8% boost in benefits for each year you delay, up until you hit 70.

Though claiming Social Security at 64 makes sense in a number of different scenarios, it's not the best move for everyone. Now that you better understand the ramifications of going this route, you'll be better positioned to make the right decision.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.