Should I Start Social Security Earlier or Later? It Depends.

By LouAnn Schulfer, AWMA®, AIF® Accredited Wealth Management AdvisorSM, Accredited Investment Fiduciary® , Published Author |

A question we commonly get asked is, When should I begin social security?  Should I start early?  Or should I start it later?  The answer is, it depends. 


It’s interesting that just about every continuing education session or conference I attend on social security advocates for advisors to encourage their clients to delay receiving social security.  For each month after age 62 that you delay, your monthly social security check will increase, all the way up to age 70.  If you live a long life, you’ll have gotten more out of the social security system by delaying your income because your checks will be higher.  But is it always the right decision to delay?  It depends. 


I have many clients who are able to retire early, before their Full Retirement Age, or FRA, as defined by the Social Security Administration.  If they are no longer receiving an income, bills need to be satisfied, cars and toys need to be bought and vacations need to be paid for, from somewhere.  If not receiving any other form of income, portfolio withdrawals will need to be taken.  If one were to have a budget of $100,000 per year for example, retired at 62 and delaying social security through age 70, that is $800,000 of portfolio withdrawals, using just simple math.  If one were to have an early social security benefit of $40,000 per year, again using simplicity for illustrative purposes, the portfolio withdrawals cold be reduced by the $320,000 that eight years of $40,000 social security income would provide.  If preserving the nest egg is more important than trying to get more money out of social security, than it may be better to begin early.


If you are working while under your FRA and you begin social security benefits, your social security income will be reduced by $1 for every two dollars that you exceed the maximum allowable income.  In 2023, the maximum allowable income is $21,240 and increases slightly most years.  It hardly pays then, to begin social security early.  In this case, it may be better to delay.


If one or both spouses have longevity on their side, consider delaying social security for as long as you can for at least one spouse.  When the first of the couple passes away, the survivor retains the highest benefit of the two.  Therefore, if at least one spouse exceeds average life expectancy, delaying benefits could mean a higher paycheck for the widow or widower.   For this reason, it could be better to begin social security benefits later.


Financial planning is complicated for most people.  As for the question of whether to start social security income earlier or later, the answer is, it really depends. 


LouAnn Schulfer of Schulfer & Associates, LLC Wealth Management can be reached at (715) 343-9600 or , or


Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor.  Member FINRA/SIPC.