What age to start Social Security? Personal and Macro impacts

DH and I retired in 2001 at about age 48. We live a modest, LBYM lifestyle and don’t need Social Security to make ends meet. When DH approached age 62, I read " Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security," by Kotlikoff et al.

Professor Kotlikoff’s mother lived to age 100 so he adamantly endorses waiting until age 70 to begin Social Security. I ran a spreadsheet for DH and myself. Obviously, a beneficiary who begins SS at age 62 will get 8 additional years of payments than one who waits until age 70. For many, the math favors starting to take Social Security benefits at 70, when monthly benefits before cost-of-living adjustments are 76% higher than at 62. The actual numbers for each recipient are available at www.ssa.gov where we each have a MySocialSecurity account.

Our break-even age was 87. For a 60 year old American male, median age at death is 82.5 years. For a 60 year old American female, median age at death is 86 years. However, DH is a long-time smoker with moderate COPD and a statistical life span of 78 years (based on his smoking and health) and I am a breast cancer survivor with two parents who died around age 70. It’s highly unlikely that we will survive to our break-even age. We started Social Security at age 62.

Many Americans are deciding to take early Social Security for various reasons.

Fear Over Social Security’s Future Leads Some to Claim Retirement Benefits Early

Filing for benefits before full retirement age is a gamble, say economists and financial advisers

By Anne Tergesen, The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2023

Some Americans are claiming Social Security years before full retirement age out of fear their benefits will be cut once the program runs short on cash.

They say they want to get as much in benefits as they can before 2034. That is when the retirement program is projected to deplete its reserves, triggering a 23% reduction in benefits, unless Congress acts. …

It is unclear how many retirees take Social Security early because of anxiety over its finances, though a quarter of men and 27% of women filed for benefits in 2021 when they turned the minimum claiming age of 62…

Benefits have been cut before. When Congress passed bipartisan legislation in 1983 to bolster the program’s finances, it delayed Social Security’s annual cost-of-living increase by six months and began taxing a portion of benefits for recipients with higher incomes… [end quote]

I expect that future efforts to strengthen Social Security will include higher taxes (until it’s all taxed away) and possibly even a means test on beneficiaries. Raising taxes is more politically palatable than cutting benefits. Not to mention higher taxes on workers.

The timing of Social Security has Macro impact because every payment is a fiscal stimulus for the economy. Many recipients live on their Social Security and spend it right away. If the giant wave of retiring Baby Boomers begins SS early the economy will be stimulated early. Delaying payments will delay economic stimulus.



I took SS as soon as I could. The breakeven point (as I recall) was somewhere in the 80+ range and I figured the time value of money was such that the TRUE breakeven was considerably later than that. I figured it made no sense to wait.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.


I think the fear is a bit misplaced. There would be riots if people currently drawing SS had benefit cuts. Also, SS doesn’t have to be funded from the trust fund. Congress could fund it from general revenues. So I don’t there is any real risk of current retirees having their benefits cut.

But the question of when to take it is still hotly debated. It all comes down to when you die, which no one knows. In general though, educated, higher net worth people–which is most of the people reading this board–live longer. And by quite a bit too. Hence delaying would benefit most people here. As an aside, sometimes people advance the notion that the full retirement age should be increased due to increasing life expectancies. But note lower income people who need SS the most aren’t experiencing increased lifespans.

Kitces had an interesting article on this topic regarding spouses. Although delaying is usually the better option for individuals, for married people the better option can be for the lower income spouse to take SS right away, and the higher income spouse to delay until 70.


That was about where I calculated my break even too. I have longevity in the family, grandfather mad it to 96, and one aunt is still living at 93, but, what would you do with the extra money at that age?



Disagree. It all comes down to when you can best use the money. If you think you will need that income when you are 92, sitting in a retirement home and reading 4 year old issues of the New Yorker, OK. If you want to retire and use the money when you are 64 to travel, that’s a different issue.

I have longevity in my family; Mom & Dad both died in their 90’s. Nevertheless I took SS early because 1) utility of money and 2) if I don’t “break even”, well, I’ll be “losing out” on money I never had, and at that age probably won’t have a lot of use for anyway. Seriously, when I’m 86, if I manage to make it that far, I’ll be 4 years in the “minus” column, but 25 years in the “I have a decent check coming in” column.


Not sure where people are getting the idea that SS breakeven is the late 80s. There are dozens of sites that consistently show it is the late 70s when comparing 62 and 67, and early 80s when comparing 62 to 70.

Here are 3, including one found at TMF:


It isn’t the extra money you get at 96. It is the extra money (with high confidence) that you can spend every year earlier, knowing that you will not likely run out.

In other words, if by delaying SS until 70, you were able to calculate that you could afford to spend $200,000 more over your life expectancy, they you can confidently spend more EVERY year, not just when you are in your 90s.


My SS benefit will be much smaller than DH’s, as I left my career to be a SAHM and handle all the home chores, including investing. The bulk of my benefit will be from spousal benefit, based on when DH takes benefits, though will not benefit from the increases to his benefit from waiting until 70. I will take my benefit at FRA, DH at 70, which is approximately the same time as I am younger.

We are waiting for these reasons:

  1. Plenty of cash on hand to cover any necessary or desired expenses. Did not deprive ourselves one bit.

  2. Desire to minimize income to allow for max Roth conversions up to the 24% tax bracket. If TIRA accounts were left without conversions, we would easily be in the 28% tax bracket with RMDs.

  3. We consider SS to be insurance and chose to max it out. While spousal benefits do not increase by the primary benefit holder taking benefits past FRA, survivor benefit does increase and maxes out by taking benefit at 70 for DH

I am currently quite healthy, though there is a family history of just about everything undesirable, including Alzheimer’s. My lifestyle and diet have been significantly different from those who came before me, but I have no need for meds of any kind. DH has a slew of pre-existing conditions, including having Type 1 diabetes, but has been told by his endocrinologist that he is the healthiest 50+ year diabetic he has ever seen, (though that may beg the question how many of his patients survived for 50+ years with that condition.) We are very active and eat well, don’t smoke and drink little. Who knows how long we will live. We do not expect to outlive our funds, even should SS go away, but maxing out SS is one of the ways we try to protect ourselves from ourselves as we age, as family history has shown me to be critical.

Everyone has different factors to consider.


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The biggest reason I’ve heard to take SS early is that, by doing so, that is less money that you need to yank from your retirement funds from day one. And that to me is a compelling argument. Anything to lessen the draw down of your main retirement nest egg, especially in those early retirement years.

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That’s the thing, it depends. SS increases by 8% (inflation adjusted!) for each year you delay. That’s a bomb rate of return. I worked it out in cFIREsim and delaying allows me to spend more money in the early years, not less.


All else being equal, you are better off to spend down retirement assets and delay SS. The math is quite clear in support of delay - especially for those that have saved significant retirement assets.

Check the math yourself at free sites like https://firecalc.com/


I only looked at the AARP one. It seems they are simply adding up the benefit cash received. I see no mention of allowing for investment return on the SS benefits received earlier. I can’t recall now, but probably assumed a rate of return of 3 or 4%. Current divi yield, per year on my cash account, which is the one that would be impacted by cash received from SS, is 3.67%. so, without SS, I would be foregoing that return, because I would be pulling money from the account to live on.



If you are taking it early and not actually spending it, then you are still choosing to spend your other retirement assets - so you are robbing paul to pay peter.

There should even less benefit to taking SS early if you are not actually spending it.

Assuming an average 2% annual cost of living adjustment, you could’ve claimed a benefit of $1,794 per month had you waited until 67 to do so. That compares to the $1,256 per month you’ll actually be collecting by then, as your $1,138 monthly payment will also have gotten those 2% COLAs over time. Based on a 5.3% safe withdrawal rate for 20 years, the portfolio built using those early Social Security checks will need to have grown in value to $121,866 in order to fund the $538 monthly difference. To accomplish that would take a steady return of just under 20.7%.

Waiting to claim benefits until you turned 70 would’ve resulted in Social Security checks that were $1,028 per month larger. In order to safely provide that much cash flow, the portfolio you funded using those Social Security checks would have needed to climb to $232,784 over the intervening eight years. That would require a steady annual return of nearly 16.2%.

And neither of those results take into account the fact that you still have to live off other income.


While the conclusions in the Kitces article may still be valid, it was written in 2015. I’m pretty sure there were some non-trivial changes since then and there are bound to be more. Best to keep an eye on the rules and run the numbers for your own situation.

Last I checked, it still made sense for me, as the lower earning spouse, to take benefits at 62 and my wife to delay. I’ve got another year and a half before I need to decide.


I am actually considering retiring at 67 and taking SS at 69. I would use those two years to draw down my IRA’s and 401 k without incurring taxes on my SS.

I find that my biggest fear is a fixed income with rapidly rising wages and a the inflation that goes with it. In other words, my best hedge against inflation is employment.

However, we expect to draw my wife’s SS at her 62 age then transfer it to spousal SS at 65 or 67 (we are two years apart). Please note the last 10 years she worked she did not pay social security because she was in the Texas Teachers Retirement system. She is already drawing that.

An interview with Social Security will be
scheduled soon.



We started out following Kitces’ advice with ispouse taking immediately upon retirement at 64 and me delaying. But stocks and bonds were so overpriced by 2021 (IMO) that I started selling bonds and increasing my cash allocation till I was almost 1/3 cash by 12/12/21. Now I am collecting SS and buying stocks with some of my excess cash . But that was personal decision based on our personal circumstances.

I wrote up something on the old boards, now relegated to wherever it is that old electrons go to die. Let’s see if I can quickly summarize.

  1. If you need Soc Sec to keep from eating cat food, collect at 62.
  2. If you’re going to keep working and making more than 15k or so, you may as well delay until your FRA, as you’ll end up paying it all back anyway.
  3. If you don’t need it at all, collect at 62. You’ll probably earn more than the annual increases by delaying, and even if you don’t, it doesn’t matter.
  4. If you get a life-shortening medical diagnosis, start claiming as soon as you can.
  5. If you don’t fit one of those situations, you’ll have to make some guesses about the future. Sharpen up your pencil and do the best you can.



I am not sure I want to closely consider any of them.

I am assuming longevity because it makes no difference. If I am gone none of it mattered.

The only factor is do I work for myself or for someone else. If it is someone else I might take it around 67. If I am working for myself I will take it at age 70.

The amount paid in is nonsense as well. That money is gone. How much you collect is the issue. It is a back up plan as funds run low in my late 80s and beyond if I make it that far. If I need a back up plan.

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That would be a mistake not to consider your individual factors. A single person doesn’t need to take survivor benefits into account. Someone with enough cash on hand to delay taking benefits has the option to wait for the bigger benefit, while the cash strapped may only be able to take SS on retirement. If the cash strapped has to go back to work while taking benefits, their benefit will quickly be clawed back, locking in their lower benefit and lowering it even further in the early years while they still work, though it would come back to them later. This person in particular would do best simply delaying their benefit until they could safely retire.

When you retire is one decision. When you take SS benefit is a separate decision. If you have cash on hand you can retire without taking SS right away. We retired at 54/58 and won’t take SS until FRAish/70. In the meantime we are doing taxable events at low tax rates, such as Roth conversions and realizing capital gains on taxable investments. This will allow us to keep more when we finally do take SS and RMDs from our tax deferred IRAs/401Ks. This again is likely a factor that is more important for couples to consider than single people, since the MFJ tax brackets are more generous than filing single, and couples need to consider a possible future where they may have to file single.



IP people who work physically or sit at a desk developing back problems may be more likely to opt for an age 62 retirement. I do not have those problems going on at age 60. There is no physical reason for me to retire. But there are different stress levels working for myself v working for someone else. I have three businesses of my own right now. I work for still another company. If I end up working for myself only and profitably, then I wont retire till age 70.

Dad just retired two years ago before his 82 birthday. Dad is not as long lived as my mother’s side of the family. You gets it from your mom.