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January 11, 2012

When should you start taking Social Security?

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N: Your need, including your other sources of retirement income. If you have a pension, or you've built substantial resources in your IRA, your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan, and you can support your income needs with modest withdrawals from these accounts, you might decide it's worthwhile to delay taking Social Security to maximize your benefits. Remember that regardless of your Social Security decision, you typically would have to pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty if you started taking withdrawals from these accounts before you reach age 59¬.

S: Your spouse/marital status. If you're single, you basically just need to think of yourself when making this decision. But it's a different story if you're married. If you die first, your spouse can keep receiving his or her own Social Security benefit or receive yours — whichever is larger. Consequently, you and your spouse will want to coordinate when you take Social Security benefits so that you can maximize the benefit for the spouse likeliest to live longer.

The choice of when to start taking Social Security can affect your lifestyle throughout your retirement years, so weigh all the factors and make the choice that's right for you.

• • •

Edward Jones Financial Adviser Michael Quinn submitted this column. Quinn's Edward Jones office is at 25 Railroad Square, Suite 201, in Haverhill. He can be reached at 978-372-8453. Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to hgazette.com.

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