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The 5 Primary Factors in Determining When to Take Your Social Security. (The Social Security Conundrum – Part II)

In part 2 of my four-part series on Social Security, I want to discuss the 5 primary factors you need to consider when it comes to taking your social security. Social security is complicated, and no single factor involved in making this decision outweighs any of the other. So, when you sit down with your wealth manager to plan this portion of your retirement, be sure to consider these 5 things.

1. Health Status

Your health status is a major factor to consider when you’re retiring. If you’re in excellent health, and your family history indicates you can live well into your 90’s, opting to take social security earlier on may not be the best option. By delaying taking social security, you increase it’s annual value. However, if your health is failing, and you’re retiring younger, it may be more sensible to take your Social Security sooner. Keep in mind, people are living longer these days, so you may want to add a couple of years to your current life expectancy.

2. Know your Earning Tests

There are several rules and regulations for social security. If you take your Social Security before a normal retirement age, you may be penalized. If you earn more than $17,000 a year, for every 3 dollars you earn above that line, you must give a dollar back. So if you choose to dip into your social security before you’re of a retirement age, you can actually earn too much money and not get any.

3. Marital Status

Your marriage status impacts the time in which you should take social security. For married couples, there are multiple options for how to proceed with your social security. You can opt to receive one person's social security earlier on, while letting the other to continue to mature. You can both delay receiving your social security, or there may be some instances where you both need to receive it early. This is very situational and depends on your life expectancy, along with your outside retirement plans and assets.

4. What are your other assets?

First off, it’s important to always consider your Social Security as an asset. I never advise clients to consider this as “free money,” which they should take in place of using assets they view as their own. But when you’re considering when to draw from Social Security, it’s important to understand what other assets you have. What’s the status of your 401(k)? How much will you be drawing from an IRA? Do you have additional savings in place, or are you intending to sell your home and do a major downsize when you retire, freeing up equity from your home? All of these factors will influence when and how you take your social security.

5. Other Income

I often encounter people who are ready to “retire” but wouldn’t mind the odd consulting job, or working part-time for themselves. If you are intending to have another source of income during your retirement, it may impact your decision of when you draw from your social security. This is also a factor to consider if you have a spouse, and they intend to work part-time after fully retiring.


When I talk about social security I always refer to it as a conundrum, and I’m hoping after this blog post you will be able to see why! Given the number of factors involved in optimizing the use of your social security, many people lose their way. Speak to your financial advisor today to ensure you stay on track!

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Larry Heller, Not Your Average Advisor.


A CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) and a former CPA.

Has helped solve complex financial planning for 20+ yrs.

Member of Wealth Management Think Tank.

A financial advisor think tank that meets monthly to discuss investment strategies and planning opportunities.

Larry is approached regularly by the respected journals.

“Journal of Financial Planning”, and “The Wall Street Journal”.