The Pros and Cons of Taking Social Security Earlier or Later

taking social security

Deciding when to start taking Social Security payments is one of the most important decisions you and your fiduciary advisor will make about your retirement plan. It’s also one of the trickiest to get right.

Not all that long ago, most workers would turn 65, retire, and transition to living off savings, investments, pensions, and Social Security. But retirement just isn’t that cut and dry anymore. People are delaying retirement past 65 either because they need the income or want to keep working. Pensions aren’t what they used to be or are non-existent. Many seniors take part-time jobs once they do retire. People are living longer, so their retirement assets have to last longer.

These are just some of the factors we take into account at Keen Wealth when helping our clients weigh the pros and cons of taking Social Security earlier or later in their financial plan. Let’s look at both scenarios in a little more detail:

Why to Consider Taking Social Security before Age 65

1. You want to retire but can’t afford to without income from Social Security.

You’re eligible to start taking Social Security at age 62. The longer you wait, the larger your payments are going to be. But some retirees decide they’ll get more use out of smaller payments earlier in their retirement than they would from larger payments as they start pushing past 70.

Envisioning an action-packed retirement full of globe-trotting and new experiences? Do you want to upgrade the family homestead with that deck and pool you’ve always wanted? Maybe you want to get the fun started sooner rather than later but need Social Security to help cover the costs.

There’s nothing wrong with using Social Security to round out your spending and withdrawal plan, especially if you want to “front load” some of your spending and then start to slow down your spending as you start to slow down too.

2. You can’t pay your bills without taking Social Security.

An unexpected job loss, disability, or sudden long-term illness are some common scenarios that cause seniors to take Social Security early. Sometimes life gets in the way of even the best-planned retirement. Social Security is one of many levers your fiduciary advisor can help you use to adjust your plan as necessary.

3. Unique investment or savings scenarios.

In some cases, it can make sense to take early Social Security payments and reinvest that income. Or maybe you’re planning on selling your family home shortly after you retire and want to use Social Security payments to get everything in tip-top shape. These are less-common scenarios that you’ll definitely want to run past your fiduciary advisor and tax professional.

Why to Delay Taking Social Security Until Age 65 or Later

1. You plan on working past age 65.

Some folks love what they do and want to keep doing it as long as they can. Other seniors take part-time jobs in retirement or channel their lifetime of experience and expertise into making their own new companies. If the income you’re earning pays for the life you want, then you’re probably better off taking Social Security later and letting your eventual payments grow.

2. You want to maximize survivor benefits.

In the event of your passing, the Social Security benefit that your spouse receives will be based on your original payment level. The longer you wait, the greater the benefit.

3. You’re concerned about your tax bracket.

Up to 85% of your Social Security benefit may be subject to taxation depending on your combined income from all other sources in retirement. If taking Social Security raises your income enough to bump you into a higher tax bracket, you may want to consider waiting.

4. You can afford to wait without compromising on your retirement goals.

Your retirement planning should be grounded in your vision of an ideal retirement. At Keen Wealth, we believe it’s our job to help you use all the assets and investments you’ve accumulated over your lifetime to realize that vision. If you don’t need early Social Security payments to live your best life in retirement or to pay for an unexpected emergency, then consider waiting until the government maximizes your payments at age 70.

But the best way to make sure you’re getting the most you can out of this important benefit is to talk to your fiduciary advisor. My team at Keen Wealth can help you make sense of even the most complicated Social Security scenario and ensure that your benefits are working in tandem with the rest of your long-term financial plan.

Bill Keen: Your fiduciary advisor can help you make sense of even the most complicated Social Security scenario.

About Bill

Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 24 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit

Keen Wealth Advisors is a Registered Investment Adviser. Nothing within this commentary constitutes investment advice, performance data or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Keen Wealth Advisors manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed here. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  

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