Should You Take Social Security at Age 62?

You're eligible for Social Security at 62, but you may want to wait longer.

Should you take Social Security at 62?
••• Jim McGuire / Getty Images

Should you start taking Social Security at age 62? Many people do. Age 62 is the earliest age at which you can begin drawing on your Social Security retirement benefits, and like many people, you may want to take your benefits as soon as you can. Consider this move carefully, though, because you might be making a big mistake.

If you decide to start benefits at age 62 you'll get a reduced amount of money.

That reduction will not only affect you but if you are married, it will also affect your spouse. Unless you meet a few clear-cut criteria, you'll want to give the idea of taking Social Security at age 62 quite a bit of thought before you apply for benefits. Unless you have a critical illness, you will likely receive more income over your lifetime by starting your benefits at a later age.

A Retirement Example

Take a look at Carol's situation. If Carol lives to age 84, she can get varying amounts depending on whether she starts Social Security at age 62, 66, or 70. To do the math, multiply your monthly benefit amount times twelve months times the number of years expected to receive benefits.

  • Age 62: $835 × 12 × 22 = $220,440
  • Age 66: $1,114 × 12 × 18 = $240,624
  • Age 70: $1,470 × 12 × 14 = $246,960

Carol gets more total income by waiting until age 70 to begin benefits. If Carol lives longer, the age 70 plan works even better for her than what is shown above.

For example, if Carol lives to age 94, she'll receive over $423,360 from Social Security if she starts benefits at 70, but would only get about $320,000 total if she had started at 62.

Below are a few general guidelines you can use to determine when it makes sense for you to start taking Social Security.

Why You Shouldn't Take Social Security at Age 62

  • If you plan on continuing to work, you will earn in excess of the annual Social Security earnings limit prior to reaching your full retirement age (FRA). A portion of your Social Security benefit is withheld if you are collecting benefits before FRA and earn more than the annual earnings limit. The withheld amount is slowly paid back to you once you reach FRA.
  • You are single, have little savings, and have a longer life expectancy. In this situation, you should consider working as long as possible to maximize your benefits and waiting as long as possible (up to age 70) to begin your benefits.
  • Your spouse still works and has earned income which may cause a larger portion of your Social Security benefits to be taxed. If your income and tax rate will be lower in a few years, by waiting to collect Social Security you can draw a larger benefit and keep more of it.
  • You have a long life expectancy. In general, the longer your life expectancy, the longer you should wait to begin drawing on Social Security. You'll receive no benefit, however, from waiting until past age 70 to begin.
  • You are married, and your spouse's benefit is smaller than yours, and/or your spouse is much younger than you. When married, your combined life expectancy will be longer than either of you as a single person. Upon your death, your spouse will continue to receive the larger of your Social Security benefits or their own, but not both. This means if you take Social Security at age 62, and your spouse's benefit is based upon your benefit, it means a significantly reduced benefit for your surviving spouse's lifetime.

    Reasons to Take Social Security at Age 62

    • You will not have earned income in excess of the annual earnings limit between age 62 and full retirement age.
    • You have health issues and/or a shorter-than-average life expectancy, and, if married, your spouse has a larger benefit than your own.
    • You have no other accounts to withdraw from and have no way to earn income, so you must take Social Security at 62.

    For most people, the reasons to take Social Security at a later age far outweigh the reasons to take it at 62.

    Many people underestimate the true worth of their Social Security benefits. By looking at how much you can get over your life expectancy, you'll see you can often get a larger amount by starting benefits later than age 62.