Clark Howard

Have Clark’s Health Issues Changed His Stance on Waiting To Collect Social Security?

Want to get people emotionally charged about money? Many different topics can cause that type of reaction. Finances are intensely personal. People care about money.

One of those topics: sharing a strong opinion about whether people should choose delayed gratification when it comes to collecting Social Security checks.

When it comes to money and retirement, people have different fears, needs and circumstances. So the line between explaining what’s logically best for most (not all) people and respecting each person’s right to control their own financial decisions can be tricky.

Has Clark Howard Changed His Social Security Strategy After Experiencing Health Issues?

A Clark Howard listener recently expressed those sentiments. He called into question Clark’s decision to wait until age 70 to collect Social Security. And Clark’s advice is that for most people, delaying Social Security as long as possible after age 62 is best.

Asked Harry during a Clark Stinks podcast segment: "Now that your health problems are even worse, have you started taking social security, and not waiting until age 70, or are you still basing this decision on hopes and wishes instead of facts and evidence?"

In case that sounds jarring without context, Clark revealed he underwent successful heart surgery at the end of 2023. He’s also been open for years about his prostate cancer, which he’s continually expressed is under control.

(“The good news is my heart suffered no damage from my failed valve. And the valve’s replaced. And my daily health numbers are the highest they’ve been. It’s just fantastic,” Clark says.)

Why Does Clark Not Fixate Too Much on the Break-Even Point?

Back to Harry’s question. The break-even point for most people who wait to collect Social Security until 70 years old is somewhere between your 82nd and 83rd birthday.

In other words, if you wait until 70 years old instead of 62 years old to start collecting checks, you’ll get bigger checks. But you’ll need to live another 13 years, roughly, to end up collecting more money.

You can start collecting Social Security anytime after your 62nd birthday. And the check sizes stop increasing once you turn 70. But deciding when to start collecting Social Security is a much more nuanced decision than the simple break-even math.

“Even if I don’t live until age 83, my wife benefits enormously based on receiving Social Security based on a higher amount from me,” Clark says. “So my Social Security strategy is based not on my life. It’s based on my wife’s lifespan.

“And that’s why even if I were not to live long enough to make the wait until 70 strategy work, I’m going to wait until 70 to be a benefit to her after I’m gone.”

Other Reasons To Delay Social Security Until 70 Years Old

Clark is referencing the spousal benefit. It gives the lesser-earning spouse a Social Security check that's up to 50% of the value of the higher earner's check, even if the lesser-earning spouse has no or little work history.

Furthermore, if the higher earner dies first, the spouse can begin taking the full value of their bereaved’s Social Security check.

Delaying the start until 70 means that the check will be the largest possible size if you have a spouse that would be in line to receive it even if you were to die first.

There are other reasons Clark cites for waiting until 70:

  • He's been a maximum saver. So he's not in desperate need of cash to pay for daily, weekly and monthly expenses.
  • He's still working.
  • Larger Social Security checks provide better insurance against longevity. People are living longer and longer over time, even with the occasional temporary life expectancy dip. The bigger your Social Security check, the easier it is to counteract inflation, expensive healthcare and market uncertainty when drawing down retirement investments, especially if you live a long time.

Final Thoughts

Clark knows the break-even point reaches well into his 80s if he waits until 70 to collect Social Security. But it’s still a nice form of longevity insurance. And because he’s married, his wife will benefit from the larger check size even if he doesn’t reach that break-even point.

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