That’s a compelling reason to delay benefits if you believe you’ll live long enough. But things look different for those with shorter life expectancies. If you live only to 70 due to a health condition, you’d be better off signing up right away at 62. Claiming a $1,092 monthly check for eight years would net you a lifetime benefit of $104,832, whereas someone who waited to claim their full benefit of $1,560 at 67 would get only $56,160, and someone who planned to start at 70 wouldn’t get anything from the program at all.
No one knows exactly how long they’ll live, so you have to make an educated guess. If you have a personal or family health history of serious illness, you may want to err on the side of caution rather than signing up late. On the other hand, if you’re in good health and you can afford to delay benefits, doing so will probably get you more money overall.
Now it’s your turn
The easiest way to determine when you ought to sign up for benefits is to use the benefit calculator in a my Social Security account. This tool uses data from the IRS showing how much money you’ve paid in Social Security taxes over the years to give you an accurate idea of what your checks might be at various starting ages. You can also see how changes to your income over your working years could affect your benefit.
Write down your estimated monthly Social Security benefit for various starting ages. Then multiply that number by 12 to get your estimated annual benefit. Finally, multiply each of your annual benefits by the number of years you expect to receive checks. For example, a $1,560 check claimed every month for a year would give you an annual benefit of $18,720. If you claimed that annual benefit for 18 years from ages 67 to 85, you’d have a lifetime benefit of $336,960.