When Should I Start Drawing My Social Security Benefits?

Planning for Social Security can be tricky. With so many different caveats and exceptions it can be a daunting task to decide when to start your draw? While Congress took away some of the “loophole” planning strategies in 2015, there are still many factors to take into consideration.

You’re eligible to draw Social Security in retirement if you’ve worked a total of 40 quarters over your lifetime. You can earn up to four quarters a year, as long as you have earned more income than the indexed requirement in a given tax year and pay Social Security tax on that income. Your benefit amount is calculated using the 35 highest years of earnings.

When Should I Begin Receiving My Draw?

There is no simple answer to when you should start your payments; it really depends on a multitude of different factors. You’re first eligible to draw when you turn 62 years of age and can begin at anytime from then until age 70. Factors you should take into consideration include:

  • Personal health outlook. If you had health issues and foresee them being a problem, you may start drawing sooner rather than later to reap some benefit.
  • Family health history and longevity. This ties into the above point. If your family has a shorter time horizon, then drawing early can be beneficial.
  • Retirement Date. If you’re not planning on retiring until 65 or 66, then there may be no sense in drawing early.
  • Cash Flow Concerns. Some individuals may need to draw earlier rather than later because of income need.

Benefits to Waiting

Weighing the pros and cons of drawing early is the most important choice when deciding when to file for benefits. Some individuals see a benefit in drawing right away at 62 if they’ve retired early and want the cash flow coming in on a monthly basis to alleviate financial stress. An individual may also elect to begin benefit because they don’t think they’ll live long enough to realize the most lifetime benefit.

The benefit to waiting though amounts to an 8% increase year-over-year. Additionally, you wouldn’t fall under the couple of restrictions that come with drawing early benefits. If you’re still working from age 65 to your Full Retirement Age (FRA), you will want to delay taking your benefit as there are income limits that reduce your benefit $1 for every $2 you make over the limit. As of 2020 the income limit is $18,240 per year. If you begin taking at FRA, you do not have any benefits withheld.


Deciding when to take Social Security is not a straightforward answer because of the different exceptions that apply to certain rules. The best course of action when deciding to take or not to take your Social Security benefits is to reach out to an advisor who can provide a breakeven analysis and evaluate any options you may have. You’ve paid into Social Security your whole life so you might as well plan for taking the most benefit possible.

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