Starting Social Security at 62 can cost you big -- as in six figures lost over your lifetime if you're really unlucky. That's because the Social Security Administration permanently reduces your checks for every month you claim benefits before your full retirement age (FRA) -- between 66 and 67 for today's workers.
But there are also times when signing up right away is the smartest move you can make. If any of the three situations below apply to you, you fall into the latter camp and should consider signing up for Social Security as soon as you blow out those 62nd birthday candles.
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1. You need the money
If you can't survive without Social Security, you should sign up for it right away. Will it reduce your lifetime benefit compared to waiting until your FRA or older to claim? Maybe. But if you can't pay your bills today, you face all kinds of horrible prospects like debt, eviction, and a general deterioration in quality of life. More money down the road won't make up for that.
But delaying benefits, even by a few months, could be worth it if it isn't going to put your financial situation in too much peril. Every month you delay Social Security benefits increases your checks slightly, at least until you hit 70. Here's a primer if you want to learn how your starting age affects your benefit.