OnWallStreet – In defense of drawing Social Security benefits early

December 2016

By Bobby Feldman
December 16, 2016
Despite the preponderance of commentary to the contrary, for many retirees, drawing early rather than delaying will net the most value from clients’ hard-earned Social Security dollars.
First, nothing is guaranteed, of course. Through wars, recessions and nail-biter elections, could-be retirees know that the future is uncertain, so why should they think of retirement any differently?
Take, for instance, a 65-year-old client with whom I worked recently. If he took Social Security immediately, he would get $2,200 a month, but if he waited a year, he would get an additional $125 a month.
Many would tell him to wait for the extra $125. However, the $26,400 that he would forego in the first year of waiting — $2,200 x 12 months — would take him more than 17 years to recoup.
By then, he would be 83 years, and what happens if he doesn’t live that long? Bye bye, extra bucks.
What if he waited longer? What if he lived forever?
There are many permutations, but the point remains the same: A bird in the hand is often worth two in the bush.
Second, clients will use the money more now.
More importantly, if clients are looking to simply attain the most dollars, they are doing it wrong. Instead, ask how and when they plan to use their Social Security money to determine its true value.
Retirees typically spend most of their leisure funds during early retirement, when they are buying their dream car, traveling the world and going to visit the grandkids. As they age, they naturally slow down, and by late retirement they are typically relaxing at home and therefore have lower expenses.
What use is an extra $125 a month at this point, when they may not really need it?
Even if a retiree nets fewer Social Security dollars by drawing early, he or she will likely reap more value by doing so. Why should clients wait to live their dreams until they have aged too much to enjoy them?
To be fair, there may be complexities such as the client is still working, is in financial straits, he or she has a much younger spouse, etc. But even with these complications in mind, the fact remains that too many people think about Social Security in terms of a number instead of a lifestyle.
When considering when to draw Social Security, think about the value to a client’s life more than digits in an account.
Bobby Feldman is a managing director and partner at Snowden Lane Partners in Pittsburgh