Frank Legan Advisors at Cedar Brook Group

What to Think About When Claiming Social Security Benefits

By Dayna Smith

Americans have flexibility regarding when to begin claiming Social Security benefits. There are pros and cons to taking your benefits sooner versus later, so there’s no one “right” age at which to begin. 

If you choose to claim your benefits before full retirement age, you’ll receive a smaller amount each month for a longer period of time. Taking your benefits at your full retirement age means you’ll receive a larger amount each month for a shorter period of time. You may find it’s a good idea for you financially to claim your Social Security benefits before your full retirement age. You can start your benefits at age 62; if you are the wage earner, you’ll receive 70.0% of your full allotment. Recent research tells us that American workers aged 45 to 62 would benefit from waiting until after age 65 to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits. 

Are you already overwhelmed? To help break things down, we will highlight some key areas to consider when planning your Social Security withdrawals.

Maximize Your Earnings

Waiting until your full retirement age to claim Social Security benefits allows you to maximize your earnings. Working consistently up until retirement age earns you the highest benefit amount once you start claiming. With this plan, you can receive the most amount possible from Social Security. Therefore, you’ll be potentially improving your financial situation during retirement. According to recent research, the most optimal age to claim Social Security is age 70. The benefits amount to 76% higher than if you claimed benefits at age 62.

One important point to note is that any income earned after age 60 is not indexed when determining your benefit amount. Indexing is how Social Security figures your top 35 years of earnings. This practice benefits people who go back to work after a hiatus, such as after raising children. 

Claiming Spousal Benefits

When you claim your Social Security benefits, your spouse may become eligible as well. Your spouse must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child under age 16 who receives Social Security disability benefits. If your spouse qualifies for a retirement benefit based on their individual earnings, and that benefit exceeds the spousal benefit, Social Security will provide the retirement benefit. However, if the spousal benefit is higher, they will provide the spousal benefit instead. 

If you were married for at least 10 years and then got divorced, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex spouse’s earnings. If an ex-spouse claims benefits at full retirement age, the amount received will be equal to one half of the ex-spouse’s full retirement benefit. 

If you are a surviving spouse, you can collect 100% of your late spouse’s benefit if you wait until your full retirement age. You do need to have been married to the deceased spouse for at least nine months. You can start receiving survivor benefits as early as age 60 at a reduced amount. If you wait until your full retirement age, you’ll receive the full survivor benefits. 

Social Security Tax

If you are claiming your Social Security benefits and go back to work, there will be tax implications. You have to pay federal income tax at the rate of between 50% to 85% of your Social Security benefits, depending on your income or your combined income with your spouse. Every January you will receive a Social Security benefit statement (Form SSA 1099) that provides information about the benefits you received in the previous year. This statement is helpful when you’re preparing your federal income tax return to determine if your benefits are taxable. Don’t worry, we can help you with navigating this tax situation! 

How We Can Help

Cedar Brook Financial is here to help you make sense of all the rules and policies regarding your Social Security retirement benefits. We know it can be daunting to parse the ins and outs of the regulations. We have helped many others just like you make smart decisions for the future. We would love to get to know you to help get you where you want to go. 

Reach out to us at 440-683-9213,, or schedule a complimentary introductory call online!


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About Frank Legan


Frank Legan is a Cleveland-based author, a partner and financial advisor at The Cedar Brook Group, one of the largest independent wealth management firms in Northeast Ohio. Frank spends his days designing and implementing personalized financial planning strategies for corporate executives, business owners, artists, families and retirees. He focuses on lifetime income planning strategies, investment advice, and estate planning services. He also works with businesses to develop strategic and succession planning strategies.

Frank holds a B.A. from the University of Dayton and a master’s degree from Cleveland State University.

Frank has been active in his community as he served as a Council Representative at Large for the City of Highland Heights, as well as Vice President and Secretary for the Hillcrest Council of Councils. He currently serves as a Board Member and Emeritus Chairman for Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland.

Frank lives in Gates Mills with his wife Laura, daughter Reese and their collie Charlie.

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