Maximize Social Security Benefits

A Contrarian Perspective

When it comes to planning for retirement, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll face is when to claim Social Security benefits. While conventional wisdom often suggests waiting until age 70 to maximize your benefits, there’s a contrarian perspective that challenges this approach. In this article, we will explore the notion that delaying Social Security may not always be the best strategy for everyone.

The Case of Debbie

To illustrate this perspective, let’s consider the case of Debbie, a 64-year-old retiree. Debbie’s monthly income needs in retirement amount to $2,200, and she has a well-funded savings portfolio. The prevailing advice she receives is to wait until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits, as this would result in the maximum possible monthly payout. But is this truly the most financially advantageous option for her?

The Cost of Delaying Social Security

Delaying Social Security until age 70 comes with a cost—a cost that is often overlooked. Debbie would miss out on several years of Social Security payments if she waits until age 70 to claim her benefits. In our example, the difference in cumulative benefits between claiming at 64 and 70 is significant.

Taking a Closer Look

Let’s break down the numbers for Debbie’s case:

  1. Claiming at 64: Debbie would receive $2,200 per month immediately. By the time she reaches age 70, she would have received $158,400 in Social Security benefits.
  2. Claiming at 66: If Debbie waits until her full retirement age of 66 to claim, she would receive $2,576 per month. However, it would take her until age 77 to catch up with the cumulative benefits she would have received by claiming at 64.
  3. Claiming at 70: Waiting until age 70 results in the highest monthly payout of $3,300. However, Debbie would need to wait until age 84 to break even with the cumulative benefits she would have received if she had claimed at 64.

Lost Opportunity Cost

The key point to consider here is the lost opportunity cost. By waiting until age 70, Debbie is forgoing years of Social Security income that she could have used to cover her living expenses. This money could have been preserved or invested, potentially growing into a substantial amount over time.


While the idea of maximizing Social Security benefits by waiting until age 70 may seem appealing, it’s essential to weigh the benefits against the costs. For many retirees, the lost opportunity cost of waiting may outweigh the higher monthly payments. Additionally, concerns about the solvency of the Social Security trust fund add uncertainty to the equation.

Ultimately, the decision of when to claim Social Security benefits should be based on your unique financial situation, goals, and life expectancy. It’s advisable to run your numbers or seek guidance from a qualified financial advisor who can help you make an informed decision tailored to your specific needs.

In an ever-changing financial landscape, it’s essential to consider all factors and not just follow conventional wisdom blindly. After all, securing a comfortable retirement is about making the right choices that align with your personal financial circumstances and goals.

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Last Updated on November 24, 2023 by Bryan Anderson