Let's face it, when Social Security is discussed most people either A.) Doubt if it will be around for them; B.) Find it confusing to figure out how and when to take it; or C.) Avoid the topic because it's all together too confusing.

Yet, Social Security is an important cornerstone of many retirement income plans. Things become particularly murky if you are married, have been divorced or widowed. Because Social Security benefits can account for a significant percentage of your income in retirement, it's important to work with an advisor who can educate you and help you evaluate your options before you begin taking your benefits. The difference in various options can amount to tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your lifetime. And, once you've made your decision, in most cases it is irreversible.

  • The first thing to consider is whether you want to begin taking benefits early - as early as age 62 - before your "full retirement age" (FRA). FRA is based on the year you were born and is 66 or 67 for most of today's retirees. You will receive a higher monthly benefit for each month you delay collecting benefits until age 70. The amount you receive when you first retire sets the base for the amount you will receive for the rest of your life.


Source: Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov)

When considering at what age you want to begin receiving Social Security benefits, you should remember that your retirement may last longer than you think. Everyone's circumstances are different so you will want to weigh your health and personal circumstances carefully before making any benefit claiming decisions.

  • You also need to be aware of strategies that may help you maximize your Social Security benefits like the "spousal benefit", which applies to current spouses, widowed spouses and ex-spouses. Work with your advisor to pinpoint which strategy, as there are many, gives you the best benefit.

There are a number of factors to consider before you begin claiming your Social Security benefits. However it's important to understand your full retirement plan when considering what Social Security option is best for you. Work with a professional financial advisor who has access to calculators and other planning tools in order to understand the holistic impact Social Security has on your financial future. You've worked hard and paid into the program for decades, so why not try to make the most of your benefits?

Caroline Hill, Financial Advisor


(This article contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Brighton Securities Corp. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. This blog post is for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended and should not be interpreted as recommendations to purchase or sell such securities).