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Preparing for Social Security: a 7-point checklist

Couple prepares for Social SecurityDo you remember your first paycheck? If you looked closely at the stub, you may have observed -- perhaps grudgingly -- that the government had withheld some of your pay for something called Social Security.

It probably seemed it would be an eternity before you'd see that money again.


But now here you are, wondering whether it's finally time to claim your Social Security retirement benefits. Choosing when to begin drawing Social Security can be a complex decision, as there are many variables that can impact the amount of money you receive over your retirement. An ill-considered move could cost you thousands.

While it's challenging to select the right time to start collecting, it can be all too easy to choose the wrong time. If you answer "no" to any of the questions on the following checklist before applying for your benefits, you may be doing just that.

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Lee Bacon

9 January 2014 at 12:12 pm

Well, my husband and I thought we were well prepared for retirement to draw Social Security. When I went in to sign up to draw mine, I was told by the girl helping me if my husband died first to be sure and let them know because I could draw his and mine would drop. My husband died in Dec 2013 and when I alerted SS, they told me I would get $295/mo instead of drawing his which was $1234/mo. They said it's all because I worked for the gov't. I only get $1108.60/mo from working for the gov't. So, as I see it, I will get $1403.60/mo. My house payment is $1464.73. As I see it, I'll HAVE to sell my house and whatever else I have just to be able to eat or go live with one of my kids?

Nylaine Belcher

6 September 2013 at 3:48 pm

Having to pay $105.00 a month for Medicare when on a fixed income from soc sec. is so costly..That works out to approximately $1,260.00 a year for all the seniors..A way to help all of us reduce some of this expense, would be to give us a monthly choice to pay the Medicare bill. If you are going to be needing to see a medical professional then the expense would be necessary. If you are in good health, then you would not need to get the insurance, thus giving everyone some extra money for other things...Life after 65 should be the time for retirerees to have fun & enjoy the years left right? ...Peace to all!!

Phil Motley

6 September 2013 at 2:13 pm

As a former personal financial analyst, I have read many comments from other analysts and firms regarding social security that ignor a very important issue when counseling retirees to wait to draw social security. The total amount of social security one can draw from age 62 (early retirement) to say 66 (full retirement) can not be discounted in making an assessment of whether to draw early. In my specific case, drawing early as opposed to waiting until age 66 would have a break even point of somewhere around age 85. In other words, the amount I would draw between age 62 through 65 would take until age 77 to make up in extra benefits. And this is without considering the time value of money or inflation. One should carefully consider all options including quality of life and plans for expending resources through various stages of life before deciding to forego drawing social security early.

Steve Schioldager

6 September 2013 at 11:11 am

Never discussed in deferring after full retirement age is the opportunity cost of deferring, Although an 8% increase each year sounds good, it takes 12.5 years of the marginal gain to recover the money not received. not including any gains from that money that could have been invested. Thus if you defer for one year to 68 You will not see any real real increase until 80 At that time the marginal gain is small. The government has worked out the probability of death and the deferral benefits not the beneficiary.