The decision of when to take Social Security retirement benefits is not an easy one.

You can start it as early as age 62, with a reduced benefit or at age 67 for a full benefit or at age 70 with an increased benefit. How do you know what is best?

Part of the decision revolves around the length of your life.

If you think you may not live too long, then taking benefits at age 62 might be best. At least, you may receive some income after paying Social Security taxes for decades.

If you are in average health and expect to live a normal life expectancy, you may want to wait until you are older.

The Social Security actuaries say that a typical male aged 65 will live to age 84.3 and a female will live to age 86.6. Most of us think we are above average, but maybe not.

These facts might suggest delaying retirement until you are a little older and getting a bigger benefit.

How about you? Is your health above average? Many retirees do not know or won’t admit that their health is not perfect.

Some look to their family tree and extrapolate from the ages of their parents, aunts or uncles. This thinking may not be scientific and may suggest that a frank discussion with their doctor is in order.

Most potential retirees know that there are earnings offsets if they work after deciding to take their Social Security benefits.

Before age 66, benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn over a certain amount.

If you are between the ages of 62-65, you may earn up to $16,920 before you lose any benefits. If you earn more, then you may lose Social Security benefits.

The best advice is if you are still working and making more than $16,920, you may want to delay starting your benefits.

The formulas for calculating your benefits are complicated.

If you have a working spouse, there are several more factors to consider. A wrong decision can reduce your benefits or cause a percentage of your benefits to be income taxable.

Social Security uses the 35 highest-earning years in their formula to determine your benefits.

If you do not have 35 years of Social Security earnings history, they will add zeroes for the years under 35 and this might reduce your benefits.

You might visit ssa.gov to find out for yourself.

As you see, there are many issues in deciding when to take Social Security benefits.

Do your homework. Take time to run various scenarios. Consider your health. Consider your future earnings potential. And if you have a spouse, it may be even more complex.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, MillsWealth.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.

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