When to start drawing social security is an important decision

Over the coming years, millions of baby boomers will reach age 62, the minimum threshold for receiving social security retirement benefits. If recent history is any indication, most of these people (over 70% by some estimates) will take their benefits as early as possible.

But whether you should take social security retirement benefits at the earliest possible age, or defer them until reaching normal retirement age (or even age 70), depends on several factors. Among these are your overall health and life expectancy, your plans to earn income before reaching normal retirement age, anticipated returns on other investments, even your guesses about the future of social security. Like most retirement planning choices, this decision isn’t one-size-fits-all.

For some people, deferring social security benefits isn’t an option. If your savings won’t cover ongoing expenses, you may need to rely on social security income to make ends meet.

But if your circumstances offer more financial flexibility, you may want to consider deferring social security benefits. For each year you delay taking benefits, the payouts increase, up to age 70. Also, if you plan to earn significant income between age 62 and your normal retirement age (age 65 to age 67, depending on the year you were born), putting off your social security benefits may make sense. That’s because any benefits in excess of specified limits ($15,120 in 2013) will be reduced. You’ll lose $1 of benefits for every $2 in earnings above the limits. Fortunately, you won’t lose any social security benefits (regardless of earnings) once you reach full retirement age.

On the other hand, let’s say you’ve accumulated $500,000 in your 401(k) account and expect that account to generate an 8% annual return. Under such a scenario, you might be better off leaving your retirement savings alone and taking your social security benefits early to cover living expenses. Or perhaps your family has a history of health problems and you don’t realistically expect to live into your 80s. Again, taking social security benefits at age 62 might be a good choice.

When it comes to retirement planning, there are no guarantees. When deciding whether to defer social security benefits, take a realistic look at your situation, run the numbers, and give it your best shot. For help with this important decision, give us a call.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today’s small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it.

Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission.

Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations.

She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.

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