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How Much Will Your Social Security Benefit Shrink by Claiming Early?

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How Much Will Your Social Security Benefit Shrink by Claiming Early?

Thinking of starting your Social Security checks early? This is a common decision made by many retirees, but it's also a choice with lasting financial consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life.

Before you decide to move forward with an early benefits claim, it's essential you understand exactly how this decision will impact the monthly income you're able to get from the Social Security Administration.

Image source: Getty Images.

This is what an early Social Security claim will do to your benefits

An early Social Security claim shrinks your check because you're subject to monthly early-filing penalties if you start benefits before full retirement age.

The exact amount of your reduction thus depends on your full retirement age, as well as how early you claim benefits. Your FRA is between 66 and 2 months and 67, depending on your birth year, and each month you claim before FRA, you'll see a reduction in your monthly income, compared with your standard benefit.

The table below shows the specific impact of an early claim, depending on exactly how long before your FRA you decide to take benefits.

If You File This Many Months Early

Your Standard Benefit Will Be Reduced by:

If You File This Many Months Early

Your Standard Benefit Will Be Reduced by:

If You File This Many Months Early

Your Standard Benefit Will Be Reduced by:

60

30.000%

40

21.667%

20

11.111%

59

29.583%

39

21.250%

19

10.556%

58

29.167%

38

20.833%

18

10.000%

57

28.750%

37

20.417%

17

9.444%

56

28.333%

36

20.000%

16

8.889%

55

27.917%

35

19.444%

15

8.333%

54

27.500%

34

18.889%

14

7.778%

53

27.083%

33

18.333%

13

7.222%

52

26.667%

32

17.778%

12

6.667%

51

26.250%

31

17.222%

11

6.111%

50

25.833%

30

16.667%

10

5.556%

49

25.417%

29

16.111%

9

5.000%

48

25.000%

28

15.556%

8

4.444%

47

24.583%

27

15.000%

7

3.889%

46

24.167%

26

14.444%

6

3.333%

45

23.750%

25

13.889%

5

2.778%

44

23.333%

24

13.333%

4

2.222%

43

22.917%

23

12.778%

3

1.667%

42

22.500%

22

12.222%

2

1.111%

41

22.083%

21

11.667%

1

0.556%

Calculations by author based on Social Security Administration rules.

Should you file for benefits early anyway?

As you can see, benefits could go down a lot due to an early claim. For example, if you're on track for the average benefit of $1,657 in 2022 but you claimed four years early and decreased your check by 25%, you'd lose $414.25 per month, or $4,971 per year.

Despite the fact you'll end up with a lot less monthly income when you make an early claim, that doesn't mean it's the wrong approach in every situation. There's a trade-off. If you start checks early, you'll definitely receive less money each month -- but you'll get more checks over time. On the other hand, if you delay, you'll raise each check you'll eventually get but will miss out on income in the meantime and get fewer total checks over your lifetime.

Those who don't expect to live very long may decide that an early claim is better. They may not live long enough to get any checks if they delay to claim higher ones, or may get their big checks only for a short amount of time that won't be long enough to make up for all the income they missed out on early on.

An early claim could also make sense if it's crucial to afford retirement or avoid draining your nest egg, or if you're hoping to unlock spousal benefits that your husband or wife can't claim until the primary earner files for their own checks.

Ultimately, it comes down to the specifics of your situation. But before you claim early, you need to understand just how much it could cost you each month. A quick look at the above chart can give you this answer so you can make a more informed choice.

The $16,728 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook

If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,728 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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