Kelly Bullis: When to start taking Social Security benefits

Kelly Bullis

Kelly Bullis

  • Discuss Comment, Blog about
  • Print Friendly and PDF

I know all you young whipper snappers out there are rolling your eyes right now. So, I’ll save you the trouble of reading any further. This article is for older folks. (Of course, if you’re curious what Social Security is all about and you are in the “young crowd” go ahead and keep reading, you might pick up a thing or two.)

The number one question I get is, “Should I take my Social Security Benefits at retirement age, or wait until I turn 70?”

If you take your Social Security benefits at normal retirement age, you lock in the amount of your benefits for life, with the only increase being inflation adjustments. (By the way, did you hear that in 2023, the Social Security benefits are going up by 8.7%.) If you wait until later, for every year that you delay taking your benefits, your eventual benefits go up by 8% (over and above inflation adjustments).

So, on the surface, if you are still working and do not need your Social Security benefits yet, the standard answer is, wait, let your eventual Social Security benefits grow and lock them in at a higher amount for the rest of your life.

But hold on, this old “standard answer” may not be exactly correct. You see, spouses of high-income earners are usually better off taking the half of their spouse’s benefits. That is computed at the time of original retirement age, not the higher benefits if they wait until they are 70 to start taking theirs. So, there is no reason to wait until that younger spouse turns 70 to begin receiving their benefits.

Here is an example, we have John (high income earner) who is 67 years old and Mary who is 66 years old. John is still fully employed and has no plans to slow down for at least 10 years. John plans on waiting until his potential Social Security benefits max out at 70 before he begins taking them. Mary should start taking her Social Security when she reaches the minimum retirement age of 67. If John’s benefits right now (while he is 67) would be $3,000, then Mary would begin her Social Security benefits at half that (or $1,500) when she turns 67. Thus, Mary would receive about 2 years of Social Security benefits before John starts taking his Social Security benefits. If Mary waited until she reached 70, she would forfeit $54,000 of benefits. Thus, Mary, who relies upon the high earning spouse John for her benefits, should NOT wait until she turns 70 before starting to taking her Social Security benefits.

There is another option for John above. If he doesn’t think he will live very long, he could start taking his benefits when he turns 67 and start saving them. By the time he turns 70, he would already have received $108,000 to put away for later use.

Have you heard? Psalm 92:14 says, “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green.”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459. On the web at Also on Facebook.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment