Know Your Social Security Choices to Improve Your Retirement Plan

Choosing the right time to claim your Social Security benefits could improve your retirement plan.

If you review your Social Security choices — your options for claiming Social Security benefits, you will find that you can increase your monthly Social Security income by waiting until after you are 62 years old to claim your benefit.

But more than 33 percent of insured workers still claimed Social Security benefits as soon as they were eligible in 2013, according to a study of claiming trends by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “The question is whether this decision appropriately reflects the individual and family circumstances of these individuals or whether they are making a mistake,” researchers wrote.

Improve your retirement plan
You can increase your monthly payment by waiting to claim your Social Security benefits.

In a separate study of the Social Security Statement, researchers from the center concluded that workers do not defer benefits because they do not consider the elements of a comprehensive retirement plan. Researchers wrote, “These factors include knowing: 1) how much income they need to ‘maintain a good standard of living;” 2) how much they will get from Social Security; 3) how much they need from savings and other sources to complement what they get from Social Security; and 4) what they could do to get what they need, such as working longer.”

Knowing the choices you have for claiming Social Security benefits will help you create a better retirement plan because you can more accurately assess the additional savings to accumulate and determine how long you must work to achieve your goals. You can also reduce or eliminate any penalties you would incur by working after claiming benefits.


You can claim Social Security benefits as soon as 62 years old or as late as 70 years old. Your monthly benefits will be reduced or increased based on your full retirement age, which is based on your year of birth. You will receive a similar amount in total benefits over your lifetime.

Estimating Your Benefit

You can get an estimate of your future benefits by reviewing your Social Security Statement through an online Social Security account. You can also request an estimate from the U.S. Social Security Administration.

Social Security Choices — Deciding When to Claim

AARP recommends that you consider factors like any spousal benefits and your planned retirement age to maximize your Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration advises you to evaluate ramifications on your family, your plans for working and the length of your retirement as well. You can also use an online Social Security Start Age Calculator to help you choose when to take Social Security benefits.

Social Security benefits account for the majority of income for 53 percent of married couples and 74 percent of unmarried persons at least 65 years old, according to AARP. Given such widespread dependence, knowing your Social Security options could help you form a stronger retirement plan.

Know when you can claim your benefits and how much they could be based on your choice. Then choose the optimal time based on your overall retirement plan.

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