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1. Delay your Social Security claim if you can

If your paychecks cover your expenses without Social Security, you're probably better off waiting to claim retirement benefits until age 70 — but not delaying beyond that.

While you become eligible for your first check at 62, in the eyes of the Social Security Administration, your full retirement age (FRA) is between ages 66 and 67, depending on when you were born.

If you claim Social Security before you reach FRA, it will result in a penalty, up to 30% of the full benefit. Plus, if you haven't hit FRA, earning too much income can result in Social Security checks being reduced.

There is a benefit to delaying your benefits, but only until age 70. Between FRA and 70, you earn delayed retirement credits each month you wait to claim benefits. You can earn as much as a 24% increase in your monthly benefit with an FRA of 67.

Waiting beyond 70 results in no further benefit increase, so delaying any further doesn't help.

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2. Make informed decisions about Medicare

While putting off signing up for Social Security makes sense, delaying your Medicare signup may not. It depends on your insurance status at work.

Most people become eligible for Medicare at age 65 and must sign up at that time for Part B coverage (which covers outpatient services) or they'll face a lifetime penalty when they do get coverage. However, seniors who are still working and covered by an employer group plan aren't required to sign up for Medicare at 65. They can keep their employer plan. Once they retire, however, they have an eight-month enrollment period to sign up for Medicare with no penalties.

If you have employer-based insurance, signing up for Part B at 65 may be a waste of money as Medicare pays only for what your company-provided plan doesn't while putting you on the hook for Part B premiums. You'll also have to stop making new contributions to any health savings account once enrolled in Medicare.

Older workers who have special coverage not part of a standard employer group plan may also need to sign up for Medicare when turning 65 to avoid penalties that follow them for life.

Be sure you understand these complicated rules, as a retiring 65-year-old could spend around $157,500 in out-of-pocket healthcare costs throughout their golden years, according to Fidelity.

3. Know the rules for minimum distributions

Finally, it's important to follow rules for required minimum distributions (RMDs). These are withdrawals people typically must take from tax-advantaged plans such as an IRA at age 73.

However, if you're still working at 73, you don't have to take RMDs from a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k), as long as you don't own 5% or more of the business. You do still have to take withdrawals from IRAs and older workplace plans you aren't an active participant in. This provides incentive to roll over plans from prior employers to your current workplace plan if you want to leave your funds invested.

Failure to take RMDs can result in a penalty of 25% of the amount you should've withdrawn, but this can be reduced to 10% if the mistake is corrected within two calendar years. So, not taking your distributions when mandated can be an expensive mistake.


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Christy Bieber Freelance Writer

Christy Bieber a freelance contributor to Moneywise, who has been writing professionally since 2008. She writes about everything related to money management and has been published by NY Post, Fox Business, USA Today, Forbes Advisor, Credible, Credit Karma, and more. She has a JD from UCLA School of Law and a BA in English Media and Communications from the University of Rochester.


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