Many Factors to Consider as to When to File for Retirement Benefits

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Byline: Esther Hatfield District Manager, Elgin Social Security Office

"When should I file for retirement benefits? What's the best time to retire?" Questions like these are common when I speak at a retirement seminar or some similar event.

The questioner is generally wrestling with this important decision or has a question from a friend or neighbor!

But it's a question that Social Security can't answer. No one but the individual involved can make this decision.

There are a lot of factors to consider. Remember, Social Security is just a part of your retirement planning. So, it's probably a good idea to see how Social Security fits into your retirement plans instead of trying to fit your retirement plans into Social Security.

When can you afford to retire? If you can't afford it, you might not be able to retire when you want.

Don't forget that Social Security isn't designed to provide all of your retirement income. It will only partially replace your pre- retirement earnings (40 percent for an average wage earner).

Social Security retirement benefits can start any month after you turn 62. But if you take Social Security benefits before your full retirement age, your benefit will be permanently reduced.

However, you would get benefits over a longer period of time, which would put you financially ahead, eventually.

But do you know how long you might live? People sometimes tell me they come from a family in which many people enjoyed long lives, but that's no guarantee you'll follow in their footsteps. If you decide to delay retirement past your full retirement age, your benefit would be increased for each month up to age 70 that you delay your retirement.

How's your health? If your health is not good, you may decide that early retirement is best for you, since continuing to work may be detrimental.

But be aware that Medicare won't kick in until age 65. So, you may need to continue working to keep health insurance. …