When Should I Take Social Security?

A question that many who are nearing retirement ask is can you take Social Security too early or too late. We will be analyzing three fictional characters: Bobby, Margie and Lucy to find out.

All three of them share a birthday (6/15/1960) and made the same income of $60,000, so their Social Security benefits will be the same if they all were to take them at the same age.

Life Expectancy:

One of the biggest factors for when someone should start taking Social Security is life expectancy. Here are the life expectancies for each of our friends:

  • Bobby – 70
  • Margie – 78
  • Lucy – 90

They can start taking Social Security at any point between 62-70, so our goal is to find when they should start in order to get the most out of their benefits. *Note, close is fine when making these decisions in real life. Don’t sweat getting it perfect.*


Bobby expects to live until 70, so as the chart shows, it would be best for him to start taking Social Security ASAP. That way he will be able to enjoy his benefits (a little over $140K total in 8 years), and not leave anything on the table.

Margie expects to live to 78, so taking social security early would end up costing her in the long run. She would maximize her total benefits if she began at 69, but as the chart shows, 67 and 68 would be pretty close to that as well.

Lucy expects to live until 90, so for her the best option to maximize benefits would be to wait until 70.


  • If a person has a shorter life expectancy, they will get the most out of their benefits by taking them early.
  • If a person expects to live longer, maximizing benefits will be achieved by waiting to collect.
  • The purpose of this article is to give some ideas and perspective for taking social security benefits.
  • Each person’s situation is different, and it is possible that what is prudent for one person may not be for another.
  • The source used to get the figures from is Quick Calculator ( You can use this tool for free to find what you can expect to get from Social Security.

To find out when to start taking withdrawals to maximize benefits based on a particular life expectancy, see the chart below.

Again, this is simply to show how to maximize benefits collected, and may not perfectly fit everyone’s plan.


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