Should I or my Spouse Take Social Security Benefits Early?

social security benefits

If you are nearing retirement, odds are you have thought a lot about how to get the most out of Social Security. You may have even thought about you or your spouse taking Social Security Benefits earlier than your Full Retirement Age (FRA). Below are some thoughts on how that would look.

In the complex world of Social Security benefits, timing is everything, especially for married couples like. For our example, we will use Karen (62) and Frank (61). In this scenario Karen is at 62 and contemplating taking her Social Security benefits early, and Frank planning to wait until his FRA of 67, there are several key considerations and strategies they should be aware of. This decision has implications not just for their immediate financial situation but for their long-term security and lifestyle in retirement.

Understanding the Basics

Social Security benefits are designed to provide you with a source of income in your retirement years, based on your earnings history. The age at which you choose to start receiving benefits can significantly affect the amount you receive monthly. While the FRA for those born in 1960 or later is 67, benefits can be taken as early as age 62, at a reduced rate, or delayed up to age 70, increasing the amount received.

Karen’s Early Retirement Choice

At 62, Karen is considering taking her Social Security benefits early. By doing so, she will receive her benefits sooner, but at a reduced amount. Karen’s monthly benefit, if she waits until her FRA of 67, would be $1,250. However, by taking her benefits at 62, she will face a reduction. This reduction is permanent and results in Karen receiving a lower monthly amount for the rest of her life.

The Impact on Spousal Benefits

In our scenario, Frank is the higher earner, with a projected monthly benefit of $3,000 at his FRA of 67. Since Karen has decided to take her benefits early, it’s essential to consider how this decision affects potential spousal benefits. In the Social Security system, a spouse can receive benefits based on their work record or up to 50% of their spouse’s benefit at FRA, whichever is higher. However, if Karen decides to take her benefits early and later switches to spousal benefits when Frank retires, her spousal benefits would also be reduced because she started her benefits early.

Frank’s Decision to Delay

Frank’s choice to delay his benefits until age 67 is strategically sound. By waiting until his FRA, he ensures his benefits are not reduced. Additionally, Frank has the option to delay his benefits beyond his FRA, up to age 70, allowing his benefits to increase by 8% per year. This decision not only maximizes his monthly benefit amount but also enhances the survivor benefits for Karen, should she outlive him.

Financial Considerations for Karen and Frank

Karen and Frank must weigh their immediate financial needs against their long-term financial security. Taking benefits early can make sense if they need the income immediately or if health concerns suggest a shorter life expectancy. However, the permanent reduction in benefits and the potential impact on spousal benefits should give them pause.

Karen’s early retirement reduces her lifetime Social Security income and potentially limits her spousal benefits. This decision could have implications for their financial security, especially in the later years of retirement. Frank’s decision to delay, on the other hand, provides a safety net by maximizing his benefits and, by extension, the potential survivor benefits for Karen.

Strategic Planning for the Future

For couples like Karen and Frank, it’s crucial to engage in comprehensive retirement planning. This includes evaluating their Social Security options within the context of their overall retirement income strategy, considering savings, pensions, and other income sources. Consulting with a financial advisor can help navigate these complex decisions, tailoring a strategy that best fits their needs, goals, and circumstances.


Deciding when to take Social Security benefits is one of the most critical decisions retirees face. For Karen and Frank, the choice involves a complex interplay of financial needs, health considerations, and the desire for financial security in later years. By carefully considering the impact of early retirement on their benefits and potential spousal benefits, they can make informed decisions that optimize their retirement income and ensure their long-term financial well-being. Please reach out to us if you have questions on whether to take Social Security early.