In a series that started last week, MarketWatch’s retirement columnists offer their best wishes for the season—and a few tips to help readers move from wish to reality. In today’s final installment, Robert Powell gives readers guidance about Social Security.Shutterstock.com
In a day and age when fewer and fewer people have a pension and many people don’t have a lot socked away for retirement, it’s becoming increasingly critical that you calculate the best time and strategy for you and (if you have one) your spouse to take Social Security.
So my wish for you is this: Get the timing right.
Don’t just take Social Security at age 62, the earliest eligibility age for most retirees, without crunching the numbers. Moreover, don’t just blindly accept what is fast becoming conventional wisdom and delay taking Social Security. Make an intelligent decision based on your household’s needs not just for today, but over your life expectancy and then some. To guide your decision, you could read, for instance, The Social Security Claiming Guide, published by the center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Or read RetireMentor Andy Landis’s book Social Security: The Inside Story, 2012 Edition.
But no matter which tools you use, remember these facts: Unlike other sources of income in retirement, Social Security is guaranteed for life and it’s inflation-adjusted. And the decision about when to take Social Security is, by and large, irreversible, so it’s important that you get it right. Make sure you get the most out of what could be your household’s most important retirement benefit.