Weekend Reading: Searching for When

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
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Weekend Reading

One of the big questions that might impact you when you retire is your decision on when to begin collecting Social Security benefits. Here, author Patrick Brennan explores the factors that influenced his filing strategy after retiring from the Coast Guard at age 63.


Factors considered: Before determining the best time to take Social Security, Brennan considered his (and his wife’s) life expectancy, financial needs, future health expenses, potential future investment performance and the impact of collecting early benefits if he returned to work. At the onset of making this decision, Brennan relied on a military pension, interest income, plus his wife’s Social Security benefits and part-time earnings. With this in mind, he weighed his two options.

Pros vs cons of taking benefits early: If Brennan took Social Security early, he would receive $110,000 before his full retirement age of 67, enabling his wife to switch to larger spousal benefits. Further, this money could help fund more trips and provide extra income for unexpected expenses. On the other hand, early benefits would also mean a possible reduction in lifetime benefits and reduced survivor benefit for his wife; not to mention, less money for potential higher expenses in later life.

For Brennan, there was a trade-off between claiming benefits early and receiving a higher pension at age 78 due to a military survivor benefit plan. Despite conventional wisdom advising against early filing if not essential, he decided to file at 63, considering health issues and the desire for extra funds to travel while physically able.

Your ideal Social Security filing strategy will depend on a variety of factors that may not seem evident at surface level. Make sure you’re considering all the crucial variables before you move forward.