Senior Living


Health & Spirit

Social Security and You: Take My Social Security Advice ... Not My Financial Advice

Tom Margenau on

That's $12 less than his potential full rate. But then you have to remember that he would be getting one extra Social Security check at the $2,628 amount. If you divide $12 into that, you will learn that he has to live 219 months, or about 18 years, beyond age 70 before he is going to come out on the short end of the Social Security stick by starting his benefits one month early. Or to put that another way, once he is 88 years old, he will start losing $12 per month.

I pointed out the numbers to a financial planner who had written to criticize me. He still wasn't convinced. He told me that as a financial planner, he must advise people "to plan for what possibly could happen, not what probably might happen." He said this guy possibly could live to be 100 years old. And if that happened, he would have lost $144 per year for the 12 years between age 88 and 100. In other words, he would have lost $1,728 in that time frame.

So is it "no big deal"? Or "a HUGE deal"? People who really worry about the green stuff would call that potential $1,728 loss a very big deal indeed. But folks like me, who just don't obsess over these matters, wonder what all the fretting is about. And let's be honest. What chance does this guy have of living until age 88, let alone 100?

If he makes it to his 88th birthday, do you think he's going to jump up and say, "I did it! I beat the Social Security system! From this day forward, I'm coming out ahead to the tune of 12 bucks per month. Whoopee!" Frankly, I doubt it.

And if he makes it to the century mark, I've got a hunch he's going to be happy just to be alive. I don't believe he's going to think too much about the extra $1,728 he made over his 30-year career as a Social Security beneficiary.

I get many emails every week from people who are worrying themselves into a tizzy over the precise month to start their Social Security benefits. I rarely tell them what to do. I just tell them about Social Security rules.

But I do suggest that they stop fretting so much over these matters. Depending on how long you live, you may come out a few bucks, (OK, maybe even a few thousand bucks) ahead or behind depending on the choices you make.

If you are a money person and like to worry about these things, then consult a financial planner, go over all the numbers, create all kinds of spreadsheets, come up with all kinds of matrixes and then make a decision. (And hope you don't get hit by a bus at age 69!)

But if you're like me, someone who doesn't lose any sleep over the financial decisions he's made, then just make the best choice you can based on the knowledge you've gathered, and enjoy the rest of your life.


If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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