Should one plan for what one hopes for or plan for what one fears?
I have reached retirement age. This is my year to mull over the “right” time (if there is one) to sign up for the Social Security benefits I accrued (and paid for with my taxes, if I may remind Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan) during my working lifetime.
If I were destined to enjoy a shorter-than-average lifespan or a debilitating old age, then it would make sense to start my Social Security payback right now, while I have the capacity to enjoy the income. On the other hand, if it were my destiny to live to a ripe age without much health drama, then delaying the payback of my Social Security benefits would make my later years and old-age care more secure.
So, should I take the money now or later? You will find plenty of advice on this topic from self-described financial experts on the internet, but here is my take.
I glance out my living room window, at 6:02 pm on an early fall evening, and I see a vista of pale blues and peach clouds and it is amazing. I just want to keep looking. I hope to look out there, at these colors, from this room, with my spouse, for a long time.
This is the message our skies send me: I am lucky that I have a choice to make. In the game of life, I already won the toss. I am fortunate that I can even think about deferring my payback to the second half of my life rather than electing to receive. Mine is one of those first-world decisions that is about optimization, not survival. I am not dealing with social insecurity — for that, I thank my lucky stars in those peach-and-blue skies.
In the grand scheme, my now-or-later choice matters only at the margins of probability. Many people have much larger stakes in this decision and I am unqualified to advise them. To serve their needs, I would like to see financial professionals stop chasing after me and instead offer Social Security advice to soon-to-be retirees for free, no strings attached, no names taken, no promotional lunches or dinners involved. Why should those who are most in need of financial guidance be the least likely to be offered it?