“I am a CSRS retiree. My spouse worked in the private sector and is eligible for Social Security benefits. Can you advise on the best time for spouses of CSRS retirees to begin taking their SS benefits?”

Reg’s Response

I considered sending your question to the Department of Unanswerable Questions. However, I thought you deserved to know why. To answer your question I’d have to know how long she was going to live. The longer she waits to apply for her Social Security benefit, the higher that benefit will be. However, unless she knows when she will die, picking a date farther in the future is a gamble. She could delay applying for a benefit and only enjoy it for a short time or even pass away before applying for it. On the other hand, she could apply when she is first eligible and receive a continuous stream of income, increased by cost-of-living increases, for decades. Looked at in another way, if getting the benefit now would either result in a better life or be used to invest and grow that money for the future, get it now. If it’s not needed for either of those reasons, gamble on the future and don’t apply until a later date.

Got a question for the Federal Times expert? Send inquiries to: fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service, is the resident expert on retirement and the federal government at Federal Times. From 1979 until 1995, he served as an assistant director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management handling recruiting and examining, white and blue collar pay, retirement, insurance and other issues. Opinions expressed are his own.

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