Brenda Lyle – Special to FLORIDA TODAY
Reader question: When is the best time for me to file for Social Security?
Answer: The question about when to take Social Security always sparks a lively discussion, with no “right” answer.
The timing truly depends on factors that are unique to each individual situation.
Social Security calculates your payment on the 35 years you earned the most money. While you can take your social security benefit as early as age 62, your benefit grows the longer you work and wait to take the benefit.
Your “full retirement” age is based on the year of your birth and taking your payment at age 62 will permanently lower your monthly benefit.
Your best first step is to go online to SSA.gov and create your account. There, you can see your lifetime earnings record as well as payment estimators to help you understand your benefit when taken at different ages.
Financial and physical health
There are two main factors to consider when debating the timing of your Social Security benefit.
Remember that the sign-up/eligibility age for Medicare is still 65.
In most instances, you cannot enroll early.
So if you opt for Social Security at age 62, you’ll need to provide your own health insurance for the intervening three years.
Are you okay with that — and the lower benefit?
Consider too, your health and life expectancy.
SSA.gov has a “life expectancy” calculator based (solely) on your year of birth.
Life expectancy matters. While your benefit grows every month you wait to take it, you also are giving up payments that you could choose to take.
The website provides the “break even” age you need to reach to make up for any lost payments.
Two chances to get it right
If you take your Social Security early and change your mind, take heart: You may withdraw your request within 12 months of applying and pay Social Security back the payments taken.
You may then restart your benefits at a later date for a potentially higher payment. But you can only do this once.
Who can I talk to?
For the internet savvy, start with SSA.gov, which is the official website of the Social Security Administration.
Create a personal account, get an estimate of your benefits and use their life expectancy calculator.
Questions? One Senior Place has financial planners well versed in the various options and Medicare advisors to walk you through the different scenarios.
Easy to reach Social Security advisers from the non-profit Association of Mature American Citizens Foundation are also available to help you by phone at 888-750-2622.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.