Does It Really Matter When You Claim Social Security Benefits?

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When should you take Social Security? There are so many different answers to this question. Benefits can be claimed as early as 62 or as late as 70, and there are pros and cons for claiming early as well as for waiting. 
If you’re stressing about when you should start your benefits, there’s something you should know: It theoretically doesn’t matter because of the way the system is designed.

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You’re supposed to get the same lifetime benefits no matter when you claim them
The age when you first claim Social Security benefits shouldn’t make much of a difference, in theory, because the formula used to determine your benefits is designed to give both early and late claimers an equal share. 
Early filing penalties reduce your benefit for every month you claim ahead of full retirement age (FRA). Since an early claim reduces the size of your checks by around 6.7% for each of the first three years before FRA and an additional 5% for each year prior, starting your benefits five years early would result in a 30% reduction of your standard benefit. Although you’d get more checks than someone who waited to claim, they’d be for a much lower amount. 

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