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Why I Started Collecting Social Security Now Instead Of Waiting Until 70

Oct. 07, 2021 6:30 AM ET223 Comments


  • There are three prime ages someone might pick to start collecting their Social Security: 62, the soonest age; Full Retirement Age (66,2mo - 67), or 70, the last starting age.
  • This article will briefly review the most common reasons that Seeking Alpha writers and readers have stated to explain why which starting age makes the most sense.
  • I will then go through our personal situation that explains why now and not when I turn 70 and would get the largest payout.
  • The article closes with deciding when to start your Social Security could influence your portfolio strategy.

Close up of social security application
courtneyk/E+ via Getty Images


One of the most discussed topics on Seeking Alpha and many retirement sites is "When do I start drawing my Social Security?". It seems everyone has their opinion and many don't take kindly to those who disagree. Unlike those theoretical articles on

This article was written by

Retired Investor profile picture

Retired Investor has been investing since the 1980s and has a background in data analysis and pension fund management. He writes articles to help others prepare for retirement by investing in CEFs, ETFs, BDCs, and REITs. He is a long only investor and shares strategies for trading options with a focus on cash-secured-puts.

He is a contributing author to the investing group Hoya Capital Income Builder. Hoya specializes in the portfolio management of publicly traded real estate securities and dividend ETFs. Learn more.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have no stock, option or similar derivative position in any of the companies mentioned, and no plans to initiate any such positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Seeking Alpha's Disclosure: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. Any views or opinions expressed above may not reflect those of Seeking Alpha as a whole. Seeking Alpha is not a licensed securities dealer, broker or US investment adviser or investment bank. Our analysts are third party authors that include both professional investors and individual investors who may not be licensed or certified by any institute or regulatory body.

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Comments (223)

Retired Investor profile picture
What fun with SSA. My delayed credits were not properly included with my 2/22 check. It took numerous calls and two appeals to finally see my check in August! One SS rep asked if the credits applied to my SS or MC (for which there is no such thing!). Highly suggest you print out your online SS statement before applying so you have a reference point; once you apply, SSA removes all estimates.
@Retired Investor On the subject of SS, this household is very much looking forward to the first of the year. Because of one off year where we had a large (large for this household) reportable income, we’ve been paying double Medicare premiums this year. That’s $340/mo extra we will see next year in our benefit. Medicare has already indicated there will be no premium increase next year. Then there’s the adjustment for inflation. Looking like it will be around $360/mo. That’s $700/mo more heading for the checking account beginning in January.
Retired Investor profile picture
@SeattleKraken Sometimes we cannot avoid that MC premium bump but its nice when its a one-off event that caused it.
Retired Investor profile picture
I recently covered the Bridge Strategy, the idea of tapping other accounts instead to delay starting SS. My review wasn’t positive on the strategy. seekingalpha.com/...
Rick Patterson profile picture
@Retired Investor
What book would you (or anyone) recommend to come up to speed on SS nuances and planning?
Retired Investor profile picture
@Moroni 10.4 I see this lady mentioned often: Mary Beth Franklin


I would google Ed Slott as possible source. Libraries should have copies of most.
Rick Patterson profile picture
@Retired Investor
Thank you, she sounds good. I'll check Ed Slott out also.
@Retired Investor Listened to MB Franklin video. Just a bag of hot air. No solid info
@Retired Investor - I enjoyed the article and the discussion. Sharing your personal situation helps put the issue into perspective. The most important takeaway to this is that it is a personal decision and one size does not fit all. Great analysis of the variables involved.
Retired Investor profile picture
@CTYankee1620 You are absolutely right, each person’s situation is different. Glad you liked it. I have to wait to 2022 to see my FRA-delay boost as apparently they only apply them in January.
@Retired Investor Probably raise part B 5.8%
Retired Investor profile picture
@bionic1 Current estimate is $10, from $148 to $158. Nor sure when the final number will be told.
@Retired Investor I saw that this morning within an hour of the CPI release. It’ll help offset our having to pay double the Medicare premium for a year next year.
Assuming only positive returns in your analysis understates the risks of taking SS early.
Retired Investor profile picture
@hdh12 I did assume 0% returns and considering history assuming long-term negative return would be unrealistic, IMO. Next time on my PC, I will run -2%.
@Retired Investor I hope you are right but I can see a decade of poor returns is not beyond the possibilities.
Retired Investor profile picture
@hdh12 I agree the next decade could be poor but many retirees will be in that mode for over 20 years, and no 20-yr period has shown a negative return; only 6% of 10-yr periods were negative. www.businessinsider.com/...
I am asked all the time when someone should start SS. Not to be a smart aleck, my answer is tell me when you are going to die and I’ll tell you when to start taking it. Beyond that it’s a guess based on your personal circumstances- primarily health and what your full financial picture looks like
Retired Investor profile picture
@tombohl54 While humorous, as I said only then do you know if you made the best decision. The key is thinking it through.
@tombohl54 I also tell people to take into consideration the value of the dollar today vs what the value of the dollar will be, when you reach FRA, or age 70. The checks you receive at age 70 will have less buying power. How much less is anybody's guess, but it will be less.
Receiving 96 SS checks, (with annual raises) from age 62 to age 70 gives you a great head start to invest that money if you continue to work, or have other sources of income, and don't need the SS checks for monthly living expenses. Just a few more things to take into consideration when deciding.
Retired Investor profile picture
@Make good choices My analysis took this into considering (investing SS checks) and and in my case, it said start at my FRA.
I turned 66 in Oct 2017. I started taking SS early, in Feb 2017 while I was still working full time at a blue collar job. I did not need the money and was able to bank all of my SS checks each month.

Fast forward to March 2020 and the economy was slammed with shut downs. My employer informed me that they had lost 70% of their business and there wouldn't be enough work for me.
All the money I saved up since Feb 2017, from banking my SS checks, was the seed money to open a taxable trading account.

I officially retired from my blue collar job, and started selling cash secured puts and covered calls in June 2020 and have earned amazing returns. I have almost doubled my portfolio since then.

The difference between SS checks received early, and what I could have collected if I had waited to 66, or even 70, now seems like peanuts compared to what I am earning each month in my trading account.

Soo glad I started collecting SS early, when I didn't need it. It prepared me with the seed money to start trading when I retired in June 2020.
@Make good choices - So let me get this straight. You take your social security benefit early while you are still working full-time, presumably resulting in tax consequences on those sums. And instead of investing the social security money then while you were fully employed, probably the most safe time to do so with this strategy, you let it sit in a savings account and then risk it all with an option trading account when you get fired from your job. Yeah, that sounds like a great plan!
Retired Investor profile picture
@Make good choices Thanks for sharing. Like the old Dragnet show said, “there are millions of stories” or something like that,
@Delivery boy The tax consequences would depend on how much he was making working full time. Since he was in a wage earning status in the year he reached FRA, he was allowed to make $44,880 between February and October without having any of his social security benefit reduced. Anything in the months after FRA don’t count against him. The only penalty would be that he’s going to pay taxes on up to 85% of his benefit. That’s my recollection.
Marrk profile picture
Good article. Thank you.
Retired Investor profile picture
@Marrk Glad you found it helpful.
MyPrivilegeIsShowing profile picture
“From each according to his ability. To each according to his needs.” When people used to say that, they were criticized for being socialists. Now they are congratulated.

In the past, the Social Security fix included raising the tax rate and raising the retirement age. Since they can now fund Social Security by sticking it to the rich, that is what will happen. Means test it so that people who paid in for 40 years receive nothing. That’s the reward we receive for being successful and deferring gratification as well as saving as much as we could for retirement

Tax rates will not go up and the retirement age will not increase.

Stick it to the rich
Retired Investor profile picture
@MyPrivilegeIsShowing There is already a maximum payout and high-earners get less per dollar than low-wager earners. I see that trend continuing but not outright elimination over a set income level. Much easier to implement, IMO.
I was a financial adviser for 25 years and this topic was a very common one. Your information was very good, and reasonable. The comments are interesting, and point out what you said: There is no perfect answer. In general, many people fail to be honest with themselves and admit they may not live to be very old. Or they will have mobility issues and the money will be used for fancier nursing homes and walkers. So for the overly thrifty, my advice was to spend some. To the spenders, my advice was to save some. One comment regarded both collecting at 70. This works, but for two people with high incomes, or similar contribution records consider this: I recommend the older spouse wait until the younger one is at FRA, then, older one collects and gets a bigger check (say "he" is 68) and will get that plus inflation bumps. The younger spouse takes a spousal benefit of 1/2 the FRA of the older spouse. Now that younger person can collect "her" full age 70 benefit say in 4 years, and get a significant raise. The benefit is that the couple will collect about 4 years of 1/2 the FRA benefit of the older spouse, making the wait much less painful than the both of them waiting till 70.
What I recommend everyone do that is approaching this exciting time is to read, read, read. Use the calculators, and use some other calculators to make sure you can afford to retire period. I almost always recommended against taking SS if you were still working and making enough to have to pay offset penalties on those earnings, and taxes. And when you are all done and ready, I did find that the people in SS office were generally very helpful. Like doctors, some are much better than others. Shop around and find one that you can understand and will explain things. Make an appointment.
Retired Investor profile picture
@Chris74 Thanks Chris. You raise an important point for the younger ones still working: Save for retirement as SS isn't enough to live on as your main/only source of income.
@Retired Investor It never was mean to be,it was designed as a safety net NOT a substitute for a pension or other savings!!
@bionic1 But that’s not the way it’s viewed today. There are a lot of social policies that when initiated were meant to be something other than what they have grown to become. Social Security pays out in many ways that we’re never designed to be part of the program.
Enjoyed your article and the thougthful comments and responses. Very helpful to this getting on 61YO.
Retired Investor profile picture
@newguy40 Glad you enjoyed and got something from it. The topic is well covered on SA.
The government can be counted on to allow the insolvency to grow to an un- fixable crisis, as long as Democrats have any power. Their solution will be to steal more of your money and freedom. "Never let a good crisis go to waste" Right? Take SS as early as you can, while it's still there. As long as you live to 80 or so you've collected the same amount regardless of when you started receiving benefits.
Retired Investor profile picture
@fully awake I believe payments are designed to all even out around 78. My view is Congress will eventually fix SS, the question then is how and it’s effect on different people.
Thank you. I’ve read many articles (and comments) on this subject, but none spelled out in this detail. I’m slightly past FRA now and leaning toward waiting to age 70 – but that’s not yet written in stone. My wife began collecting at her FRA and, when I start to collect, her check will go up but the difference is not as great as in your case.

Why am I waiting? You named a couple reasons but missed one big one. That is, SS is an insurance policy and, if congress does their job, a ‘sure thing’. Based on historical returns, investing all of my SS check would give me a better return than the increase in SS. But what if the economy tanks? What are the odds of my having serious regrets later?

All the calculators I’ve seen ultimately calculate how much you end up with, that is, the same goal is to die with the most money. That is certainly a nice-to-have, but IMHO the real goal should be to have the best odds of not running out. (In both casas I assume you’ll have sufficient for a comfortable and enjoyable retirement.)
Retired Investor profile picture
@glinsight Agree that SS is not getting cut due to lack of funds. I could see moving to CPI that generates smaller increases or higher earners get less COLA.
@glinsight You haven't accounted for a non-financial events! Did you miss what's be going on the past 20+ months??
@bionic1 I'm not sure what you mean. Please explain. I guess the event is the pandemic, but how should I have accounted for it?
KingofKings profile picture
One question. My wife is 2 years older than me and is 63 now. If she collects SS now, will it affect my larger SS payments, if I wait until FRA?
Retired Investor profile picture
@KingofKings If you are going to take a spousal benefit, her starting early doesn’t effect your benefit regardless of when you start. It does reduce what she would get as a spouse though.
KingofKings profile picture
@Retired Investor Thank you. I am still working and advising her to hold off until FRA.
Retired Investor profile picture
@KingofKings I should have mentioned this: If anyone hasn't setup their online SS account: don't wait. Besides seeing what your benefit could be now, at FRA and 70, it prevents someone else from setting one up and collecting under your SSN.
Very nice write up! As an Advisor, generally, generally speaking, I recommend taking SS when one stops working. Pretty annoying when one realizes they are paying taxes on the taxes they are expecting to be "paid" back to them. The general rule that would trump taking SS while still working, poor health.

Thanks, Bill
@billbam You can thank Joe Biden for paying “taxes on the taxes they are expecting to be paid back to them”. Senator Biden was the deciding vote to allow your social security benefit to be subject to federal income tax. It took a number of Senators votes of course but old Joe provided the decider.
Retired Investor profile picture
@billbam Thanks for reading. Health and Wealth will definitely effect when it’s “best” to start.
hawkeyec profile picture
@Retired Investor

My wife and I took our SS at 62 when we retired. Did so for several practical reasons. First, we each had a 403(b) with TIAA and when we retired (the driving choice here) we were required to take our retirement benefits in the form of annuities. Including early SS we covered our entire comfortable budget, leaving all our investment income as gravy which we were free to use any way we wanted. Even though I earned the max for 35 years and paid in self-employment tax on my gig work, our SS checks were less than they might have been. Mine would amount to around 25k per year except that because of our investment income, we both were required to hand back a total of $920/ month (total for two) to pay for Medicare premiums (over 10k/year). So my net as a widower now is $1600/mo and my wife's check has disappeared. Still, assuming I could have invested my net checks @5% for the last 15 years my early SS payments would have been worth $430,000 today, plus my wife's check the total would have been worth $700k. Besides, I reckon that if SS does curtail benefits there will a strong possibility current beneficiaries will be protected. I didn't want to risk that prospect by waiting and wasting $700k of investment capital to pay for the income I was going to receive.
@hawkeyec Smart moves.
Retired Investor profile picture
@hawkeyec Thanks for sharing your story.
You forgot this potential fix:

Retired Investor profile picture
@BroBill Sounds somewhat like the private account solution that was suggested and greatly opposed by many different groups.
It appears you’re about a year older than myself. My wife is 6 mo older. I retired 4 years ago at 61 and took my social security at 62. My wife continued to work part time and this combination provided more than enough income for our expenses. We now head for a warmer climate for about 4-5 months every winter and my wife works a few days a month for the same employer as a summer float when we’re home. What a deal! She started taking social security at 65 about a year ago.

I started taking mine at 62 for many of the common reasons you listed. My thinking at the time was this:

I would rather spend the social security now than draw on the IRA’s. I can earn more on the IRA investments, providing a bigger withdrawal later than what the bump in the social security will provide.

Drawing on the IRA’s and delaying social security means you’re betting all your chips on the government. No thank you!

When you pass away, social security stops. If you spend your retirement savings first, your heirs could be left with nothing. Spending social security early means YOU have more control over your other retirement assets.

We wanted to enjoy the money and an active lifestyle while our health was good and we were young (a relative term, lol). We anticipate spending less( adjusted for inflation) as we age. Social Security is helping to fund our active lifestyle without spending down our own assets.

People with relatively little retirement savings or other sources of income are probably best off delaying social security as long as possible but if you have saved to enjoy your older years, what are you waiting for? There are no guarantees as to how many years you have left and remember…you can’t take it with you.
Retired Investor profile picture
@SeattleKraken Sounds like you thought this out well. Thanks for sharing.
All good points; especially regarding IRA investments. Plan on doing the same.
Retired Investor profile picture
@SeattleKraken Strategically taking money from IRAs when you believe you are in a lower tax bracket than what you could be in at 72 is a wise move.
Vandooman profile picture
A few more considerations. First, there is no guarantee that social security may in time be means tested as a means of stretching it out. Second, there is no social security fund. In Canada the equivalent scheme is invested in third party securities and it has been tested to be good for 40 or 50 years out. In the US it amounts to a government promise to pay. There is no fund separate from the Government. Third, taxes may be higher in the future and you will receive less after tax to spend. Personally I have limited confidence in the competence of our government, regardless of party, so I took mine early.
@Vandooman Well said! Despite all the claims that we are the exceptional country in the world, I don’t have much faith in government. They spend like drunken sailors. At some point, we as a country, are in for a rude awakening. We’re fiscally arrogant.
Retired Investor profile picture
@Vandooman I fully expect SS to be means tested plus 100% taxable at some income level. Never believed in the “lock box” and what there is is government IOUs. I’m planning on higher rates and converting some IRA/401k assets today for that reason, but that is another hot topic.
Retired Investor profile picture
@SeattleKraken That reckoning will come sooner if the rest of the world drops the USD as its primary currency.
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