It was surely welcome news for millions of retirees when they heard that the Social Security Administration (SSA) confirmed that there will be a 5.9 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA)—the largest seen in nearly forty years—for 2022.
“This would be the highest COLA that most beneficiaries living today have ever seen,” Mary Johnson, the Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, said in a statement.
The outsized boost in benefits, however, has some Americans wondering if they should change their mindset on when to file for Social Security. For decades now, a good rule of thumb has been to delay as long as possible before claiming because it would generally lead to larger monthly payouts.
If one goes through the numbers, it really is a compelling case. For those individuals who need to start collecting the benefits at age sixty-two—the earliest age to do so—the maximum amount will be $2,364 in 2022. But if one can wait till age seventy to file, he or she would be eligible for the absolute maximum amount—which currently sits at $4,194.
“Workers planning for their retirement should be aware that retirement benefits depend on age at retirement. If a worker begins receiving benefits before his/her normal (or full) retirement age, the worker will receive a reduced benefit. A worker can choose to retire as early as age sixty-two, but doing so may result in a reduction of as much as 30 percent,” the SSA writes.
“Starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits. With delayed retirement credits, a person can receive his or her largest benefit by retiring at age seventy,” it continues.
Similar sentiments were shared by Katie Brockman at the financial site The Motley Fool, but she added that “while you can receive larger monthly payments by delaying benefits, many workers choose to file as early as possible at age sixty-two. That can be a smart strategy in many cases, and there are several advantages to claiming early. … Not everyone will be able to wait until age seventy to file for benefits. But if you’re unable to reach the maximum benefit amount, delaying Social Security is one of the best and easiest ways to boost your benefits.”
But obviously, each American’s financial situation and retirement outlook can be quite different—and there is no guarantee that one will even live that long to max out their benefits.
“As soon as I’m eligible, I’ll strongly consider claiming Social Security. Why? I never knew either of my grandfathers. My mom’s dad died of a stroke when she was nineteen years old. One of my favorite photos of my parents’ wedding is that of my uncle—my mom’s oldest brother—walking her down the aisle. My grandfather never got to see my parents wed,” Juan Fourneau wrote in an op-ed.
“My dad’s father died very young as well. Dad had no memory of his father. My dad, Jorge, passed away at seventy-two,” he added.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.