Social Security Benefits – When Should Your Senior Start Them?

About 8,000 of us turn 65 each day, according to predictions from AARP.

Others estimate this number nearer to 10,000 a day and will continue through 2030.

Either way, there are a lot of people turning 65 each day!

Turning 65 is a real milestone for our senior loved ones and us as their family caregivers.

To face the coming years, many of those turning 65 will have only their Social Security income to depend upon as they age in place.

More than 78% of us have saved less than $100,000 for retirement and 52% of us have saved less than $10,000.

Combine those savings with the disappearance of the once-traditional defined benefits pension plans and Social Security benefits play a key role for many seniors.

It is important, then, for our seniors to make the most of electing when to enroll in benefits to best meet their financial obligations, especially healthcare, as they age.

When To Elect Benefits

When is the best time to begin social security benefits?

For those retiring or planning retirement, this can be a critical decision.

A question many seniors ask themselves is whether it is better to begin their benefits as early as possible and earn a smaller amount or wait longer to increase the amount they receive.

The amount of your senior’s monthly benefit will be directly related to what age they elect to begin their benefits. There is a handy calculator to help determine the best retirement age.

Depending on the choice your senior makes, it could mean the difference in several thousand dollars of retirement income.

Unfortunately, there is no one answer right for everyone who may be debating about what to do.

When Does Retirement Begin?

According to the Social Security Administration, full retirement age begins based on the year one was born, starting from 65 years and two months to 67 years.

One can begin collecting social security benefits at 62 years old, which is called early retirement by the Social Security Administration (SSA), but your senior will receive a lower monthly rate than what they will earn at full retirement age.

If they delay their benefits until age 70, known as delayed retirement by the SSA, they will earn an even higher monthly benefit.

The difference in early benefits can be 6.7% to 30% lower than what they will receive at full retirement age.

The benefit amount based on retirement age will remain the same for the entire benefit period, so this is a decision that requires careful thought and financial planning on the part of your senior.

Calculating Needs and Benefits

Benefits are currently based on your senior’s average earnings throughout their lifetime, using an average of the highest earning 35 years of work. If there is a break in work history, those years will also be averaged to achieve a 35 year span.

Over the years, when you work and pay social security taxes, you earn credits toward earning your benefits.

Your senior will receive an annual earnings statement from the Social Security Administration that explains the amount of benefits they are eligible to receive at early retirement, full retirement age, and 70 years old.

Your senior should review (maybe with your help?) this statement very carefully to help make informed decisions regarding how much income they will need or if their current spending will need to be adjusted.

While financial needs vary by senior, the rule of thumb is that 60-70% of pre-retirement income is needed after retirement. Be aware that Social Security benefits are likely to provide 40% or less of pre-retirement income.

Some things for your senior to include in their needs calculations include:

  • whether they plan to continue to working after “retirement” (full, part or intermittent) and after they begin collecting benefits
  • your senior’s health history and potential future healthcare needs
  • the amount of pension benefits, savings or other assets available to them

Also consider if there is supplemental or long term care insurance benefits available that would help offset future out of pocket medical costs.

Don’t forget, when your senior becomes eligible for full benefits depends on the year of birth.

Some people advise, if you think you are likely to live a long life, delaying receipt of benefits, perhaps even to age 70.

If your senior decides to defer benefits to later in life, it may be a good time to initiate and follow a budget, keeping debt low so that any unforeseen expenses can be handled.

Most people hope to get as much from their Social Security as possible, but each person’s situation is different and will require a slightly different approach.

Applying for Benefits

Remember, if your senior decides it is time to take their Social Security benefits, they should apply about three months before they wish to receive these benefits.

To get more information when your senior is ready to make this important decision, you both can consult the Social Security Administration benefits planner website. You will find tools to help you calculate your benefits.

If your senior is ready to apply for their benefits, it can be done at

One important reminder from the Social Security Administration: if you plan to delay receiving benefits, you’ll still need to sign up for Medicare three months before reaching age 65.

Do you have advice, tips or want to share your experience? Your comments are welcome.