As you approach retirement you’re probably going to be asking yourself when to collect social security benefits. After all, the longer you wait, the more money you can secure. For instance, as long as you’ve paid into the program for 40 quarters (or roughly 10 years), you can start collecting as early as age 62, though full social security retirement age ranges from 65 to 67 for people born after 1943. If you can hold off a few more years, however, your benefit increases by about 8% every year until age 70.

Experts recommend that one thing to look at is whether or not you can afford to wait. Do you have financial flexibility with other assets that can cover your expenses, or do you need the extra monthly payment to keep with the lifestyle to which you’ve grown accustomed? If it’s the latter, you may be forced to withdraw sooner or make changes to your lifestyle. What about existing investments? If you collect early, your investments can grow longer, but they would have to grow by at least 8% a year just to equalize the loss from collecting early.

As you decide when to start withdrawing social security, take into account the age at which you’re planning to retire. If you’re still in the workforce when you become eligible to receive benefits, you can start collecting social security. However, there are some potential downsides to consider. For example, if you haven’t reached your full retirement age, you lose $1 for every $2 you earn above the $15,480.00 earning limit. Your benefits are recalculated to recover those lost benefits once you reach full retirement age, but it can take up to 15 years just to restore the loss.

Another consideration to look at is your marriage status. If you’re married, experts recommend that the higher earner in the marriage hold off on collecting benefits for as long as possible. However, it’s possible for the higher earner to file for benefits at retirement age and then suspend them, which could allow your spouse to collect a spousal benefit equal to ½ of your full retirement benefit. Meanwhile, your benefit continues to grow until age 70.

Lastly, consider your health. If you’re in poor health, you might be better off taking benefits early. According to the Social Security Administration, if you live to the average life expectancy for your age, you’ll get about the same amount of benefits no matter when you start collecting. The longer you live beyond that age, the more you’ll benefit by delaying payments.

With so many factors to consider, there is no “right” age to start collecting social security benefits, so just be sure that you’re making an informed decision when the time comes.

Jean Miller