Worth the Wait? Schwab Offers Perspective on When to Take Social Security and How to Give It Back

Schwab Reminds Boomers to Think Twice Before Collecting and Remember the Payback Option If They Jumped Too Soon

Monday, October 19, 2009 5:01 am PDT



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SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--It’s the perennial question: When should I take Social Security? Recent data show the number of retirees grabbing their checks at the age of 62 increased by a record 19 percent during 2009. Charles Schwab reminds investors that they have the option to give it back if they jumped too soon.

“In this economic climate, there has been a sharp increase in the number of folks opting to take Social Security sooner rather than later,” said Rande Spiegelman, vice president of financial planning, Charles Schwab Financial Research. “What many don’t realize is that they have the option to reverse their decision if they feel they began collecting too soon.”

Stop. Reverse. Can I pay Social Security back?

Sometimes an investor’s first decision isn’t the most financially beneficial. If you regret taking Social Security payments you have the opportunity to pay this amount back to the government – restarting the benefits at a later date to take advantage of a higher payout. This option might ring most true for the 9.5 million retirees that intend to reenter the workforce due to economic conditions, according to the fourth Real Life Retirement quarterly pulse survey by Charles Schwab. For additional detail, see: Can I pay back Social Security and restart later?

“If you decided to receive early benefits at age 62, but are not considering going back to work, you have the option to restart the clock,” explained Spiegelman. “You can stop receiving Social Security, pay back the three years’ worth of benefits you received, go back to work, and then wait until age 70 to restart your benefit checks at a higher level. Paying back prior benefits is similar to buying an annuity, except you don’t have to pay any interest on the benefits you’ve already received and there are no fees.”

When should I take Social Security?

While the option of collecting Social Security at age 62 has its appeal, Schwab recommends considering a number of factors before electing to go this route. “If you don’t need to access the money immediately and expect you (or your lower-earning spouse) will live past average life expectancy, consider waiting until you’re 70 before you start receiving Social Security payments,” Spiegelman advises. “Even though you can start receiving Social Security payments as early as age 62, your payment amounts will increase the longer you wait. You’ll get your highest returns at age 70.”

To help investors make this decision, Spiegelman recommends considering four factors:


Your cash needs. If you're contemplating early retirement and you have sufficient resources (adequate investments, a traditional pension, other sources of income, etc.), you can be flexible about when you take Social Security benefits. However, if you can't make ends meet without electing for an early, reduced benefit, you may want to consider postponing retirement for a few years until you reach your normal retirement age, or even longer.


Your life expectancy and break-even age. Taking Social Security early reduces your benefits, but it also means you'll receive monthly checks for a longer time. Taking Social Security later results in fewer checks over your lifetime, but credit for waiting means each check will be larger.


Your spouse. Don't forget to take your spouse's age and health into account as you consider when to begin receiving Social Security, particularly if you're the higher-earning spouse. The amount of survivor benefits for a spouse who hasn't earned much during his or her working years could depend on the deceased, higher-earning spouse's benefit — the bigger that higher-earning spouse's benefit was, the better for the surviving spouse.


Whether you're still working. If you take Social Security before your normal retirement age, earning a wage (or even self-employed income) could subject a greater portion of your benefit to income tax and even temporarily* reduce your benefit.

*Any benefit reduction due to the "earnings test" will be recouped in the form of a higher benefit after you reach full retirement age.

For More Information

Charles Schwab encourages individuals to take advantage of Schwab’s Real Life Retirement Services, which provides a realistic approach to retirement, not only offering key insight into actionable ways to save for and manage retirement savings, but also providing guidance on products and services and access to stories from Americans who have successfully moved into life’s third act. For more information please visit, www.schwab.com/RealLifeRetirement.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. Data contained here is obtained from what are considered reliable sources; however, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

About Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Corporation (Nasdaq:SCHW) is a leading provider of financial services, with more than 300 offices and 7.4 million client brokerage accounts, 1.4 million corporate retirement plan participants, 447,000 banking accounts, and $1.1 trillion in client assets. Through its operating subsidiaries, the company provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC, http://www.sipc.org), and affiliates offer a complete range of investment services and products including an extensive selection of mutual funds; financial planning and investment advice; retirement plan and equity compensation plan services; referrals to independent fee-based investment advisors; and custodial, operational and trading support for independent, fee-based investment advisors through its Advisor Services division. The Charles Schwab Bank (member FDIC) provides banking and mortgage services and products. More information is available at www.schwab.com. (1009- 11361)


Charles Schwab
Matt Hurwitz, 415-636-3700
Pablo Rodriguez, 415-486-3267

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