Retirees are trying to balance conflicting goals when it comes to deciding when to take Social Security and how much to withdraw from savings, according to T. Rowe Price.
Many retirees rely heavily on their Social Security benefits and savings withdrawals for retirement income, yet they face a challenge in balancing each source of funds against the other, says Christine Fahlund, a senior T. Rowe Price financial planner.
Retirees need to obtain the highest Society Security benefits and, if married, the highest benefits for the surviving spouse, which means delaying taking benefits possibly until 70 years of age. At the same time, they want to limit the amount taken from savings and investments.
“You can’t do both,” says Fahlund. “So you should be looking for the best compromise for your situation.” Even for middle-income retirees, the outcomes can vary by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
T. Rowe Price examined some of the trade-offs involved, which depend on retirees’ marital status.
Unmarried individuals have fewer options than the divorced or married when balancing Social Security versus withdrawals. As a result, Fahlund recommends singles work full or part time as long as possible to delay taking Social Security benefits and limit savings withdrawals.
For people who divorce after at least 10 years of marriage, there is the option of the spousal benefit. Even if the ex-spouse has remarried, the divorced can take a benefit based on the ex-spouse’s earnings record and delay taking their own benefit until age 70, when it is the largest possible.
“Many who are divorced don’t seem to know about this benefit, thinking it’s only for married couples,” Fahlund said. “Both ex-spouses, if single, can simultaneously get this benefit.”
For married couples, there are seemingly endless variations in the trade-offs with initiating Social Security benefits, taking savings withdrawals, taking the spousal benefit and working longer.
T. Rowe Price has a Social Security evaluator at www.troweprice.com/socialsecurity.