Should I take Social Security earlier than the full retirement age shown on my statement? I'm concerned they'll change the rules and I'll lose out if I wait. :-/

What is the likelihood the rules are going to change?

In general, is it better to take Social Security benefits earlier, or later? I don't necessarily need the money sooner - I have other sources of income I can tap, and I might continue working part-time into retirement.

4 Answers 4


I think the chances of them changing the rules without grandfathering in people of retirement age (pun intended) are pretty small.

The general rule of thumb on this issue seems to be to wait to get the full amount if you have sufficient resources that you don't expect to need the money earlier. That is, unless you have some reason to not expect much longevity (family history of dying young, current medical condition, etc.)

Ultimately, however, this is a big financial decision that is best made with the help of a good financial adviser/actuary. There are a large number of variables to be considered.

  • 3
    Adding one more detail, the delayed payments effectively earn something like 8% per year plus cost of living adjustments, so that's an amazing investment return for something with near-zero risk. Much better than you'd be likely to get if you take the money earlier and invest it.
    – Havoc P
    Jun 5, 2011 at 1:49


As a general rule of thumb on average you'll gain a similar amount of total money over time whether you start withdrawing early or not. Yes you get less money on each check, but you're also going to get more checks a whole since it's based on how long you live.

I personally don't try and adjust how I manage my money based on what decisions the government MIGHT make, but I also am fairly young so don't quite have the heightened concerns regarding social security others might have. I've pretty much always lived and invested assuming it wasn't going to be there at all by the time I retire.


If you can still work or have income to support yourself, I would wait. contrary to some media reports, Social Security has enough money to cover full benefits for a number of years to come, and there are solutions that don't involve cutting payouts. And as mentioned before it is likely you'll be grandfathered in if there are cuts.

  • It's not clear why this was downvoted as there is no comment. If someone takes issue with what I have stated as being incorrect, they should post a link showing that. If it's a political dispute, they shouldn't downvote it.
    – chrisfs
    Jan 24, 2013 at 0:47

There's a loophole that could enable you to have it both ways. Start taking it out as soon as you are eligible. e.g. at age 62. If you decide you want more, starting at age 65, you can "start fresh" (at a higher level) by repaying what you took out between ages 62-64 at face value. Essentially, you can take out an interest-free loan for those years.

Or so the experts at Agora Financial have told me.

  • 1
    I've heard of this loophole too -- in the context of closing it. So if you're 62 now and decide to exploit the loophole and take this "loan", you run the risk of Congress changing the law in the next three years. I wouldn't assume you'd be grandfathered either -- loophole exploiters don't always garner much sympathy.
    – bstpierre
    Jun 5, 2011 at 12:33
  • Good caveat. We're all here to help each other explore POSSIBILITIES. But it's also good to caution that these possibilities may not materialize.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 5, 2011 at 12:59

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