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Retirement Planning > Social Security > Claiming Strategies

Should This Client Claim Social Security Before 70?

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What You Need to Know

  • Welcome to Connecting the Dots, the column where Marcia Mantell discusses real-life decisions around Social Security claiming and retirement.
  • Waiting until 70 to claim Social Security benefits yields a higher monthly payment.
  • But other goals, like leaving an inheritance, might be better served by claiming earlier.

An advisor asked about claiming strategies for a couple. The higher earner wants to claim now. But the advisor heard that no one should claim before 70 — unless they are the lower-earning spouse.

There are two distinct camps among advisors. One group staunchly believes the higher earner should always wait until 70 before claiming.

The other camp is more measured. While they, too, can do the math and see that getting 8% per year in delayed retirement credits yields a higher monthly payment, they also consider the facts and circumstances that surround each client — and how their goals change over time.

The Client Couple

In this case, the client couple (we’ll call Juan Carlos and Tessa) wanted advice about timing their Social Security claim. Juan Carlos reached his full retirement age (FRA) of 66 and 4 months. Tessa had just turned 65.

He retired 12 years ago, and they have been living off their investments since 2010.

Should they claim now at FRA or continue to wait until Juan Carlos turns 70?

Is The Answer ‘Wait Til 70?’

“Yes!” some advisors would say. Instead of receiving a primary insurance amount (PIA) of $3,000 a month, he would get a boost to at least $3,880.

However, Tessa is a dependent wife. She did not earn enough credits to have her own Social Security benefit. She will be eligible for half of Juan Carlos’ PIA when she reaches her own FRA of 66 and 6 months, about $1,500 per month.

But until Juan Carlos claims his own benefit, Tessa sits on the sidelines. She cannot claim her spousal benefit until he claims his worker benefit. That means if he waits until 70, she must wait until then as well. She’ll be 68 and a half. While his benefit will increase at 8% per year, hers maxes out at her FRA — two and a half years earlier. Spousal benefits do not get delayed retirement credits.

Take a Step Back

When considering this question with your own clients, take a step back. Review the client’s current personal situation and their goals. The real answer is more nuanced than simply looking at the math.

For Juan Carlos and Tessa, in the first 10 years of retirement, the markets were favorable, allowing the couple to live comfortably off their investments. With the help of their advisor, their portfolio had grown nicely, even with annual draws to support their lifestyle.

However, this last year with the market downturn, along with rising inflation, has put pressure on their portfolio.

Furthermore, much has changed in the last 12 years. Most notably, they now have grandchildren and their top goal has changed significantly. They want to secure a larger inheritance than originally planned.

Weighing The Options

If the clients wait to claim for four more years, they will continue to chew through their portfolio. Even if there is a sustained a market rally, the new goals must be factored in.

The question, therefore, becomes, “Shouldn’t they claim now?”

There are some small trade-offs. Assuming a January claim date, Juan Carlos will only get a 6-month bump, and Tessa will take an 8% reduction for claiming early.

Together, they will bring in about $4,500 per month from Social Security. Medicare Part B premiums will reduce benefits to about $4,100. That’s an annual income of roughly $50,000.

Claiming sooner allows them to reduce their portfolio draw by $200,000 between now and age 70. Assuming a 7% investment return, that’s over $1 million more in the portfolio for their legacy.

Connect the Dots on the Family Side of the Equation, Too

When the advisor connected all the current dots — market downturns, high inflation, and his clients’ new top goal — the question about when to claim became much more than about 8% delayed retirement credits.

When planning for retirement accumulation, advisors are adept at connecting dots on the financial side. But when it comes to retirement income, it’s critical to connect dots on the family side of the equation as well.

When considering family legacy and inheritance goals, Social Security cannot be bequeathed. Only personal assets can pass to the younger generation.

Juan Carlos and Tessa decided to claim in January. They would rather start Social Security now, preserve more of their personal assets, and meet their most important family goals of the future.

Marcia Mantell is the founder and president of Mantell Retirement Consulting Inc., a retirement business development, marketing & communications, and education company supporting the financial services industry, advisors, and their clients.  She is author of “What’s the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women?,” “What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women?” and blogs at


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