At what age should you start Social Security benefits?

When should you apply for Social Security benefits? It’s an important question to ask, no matter where you are on your retirement planning journey. But the answer can get complicated — and a few years can make thousands of dollars difference in your benefits.

To help you consider your options before the pressure is on, we’re providing this overview of three milestone ages that could affect your decision.*


First, are you eligible?
To qualify for Social Security benefits, you typically must have worked for at least 10 years while paying Social Security taxes. You may also qualify if you’ve been married to someone who meets this criteria.


Age 62 for early claims
You must be at least 62 to claim Social Security benefits. But if you start at this age, your monthly benefits will be 20 to 30 percent less than if you wait until full retirement age. For every month you wait to apply, your benefits will increase slightly until your full retirement age. 


Full retirement age for full benefits
At your full retirement age, you’ll qualify for 100 percent of your monthly benefit. But what is full retirement age?

  • 65, if you were born in 1937 or earlier 
    • The number increases two months every year for birthdays between 1938 and 1942
       
  • 66, if you were born from 1943 to 1954
    • The number increases two months every year for birthdays between 1955 and 1959
       
  • 67, if you were born after 1959


Past full retirement age for the largest payout 
If you hold off claiming until after your full retirement age, your benefit will increase slightly, based on your birth year. The increases end when you reach age 70.


Important details
Whatever payment you start with will be your base for life. However, the amount could increase due to cost-of-living adjustments or if you continue to work. Some of your benefits could also be withheld if you claim before full retirement age and continue working.


Making your decision
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), if you live an average life expectancy, you’ll get about the same total, lifetime payout regardless of when you start taking benefits. You’ll either get lower payments for a longer time or larger payments for a shorter time.

Still, you’ll want to consider factors that could influence your decision to claim benefits sooner versus later. For instance:

  • Your health and your family’s history of longevity can indicate your chances of living to or beyond the average life span. 
     
  • Your other financial resources, as well as your desire or need to continue working, can influence when you need Social Security payments.
     
  • Your family’s needs also matter, since spousal, survivor and dependent benefits are all impacted by when you begin taking benefits.

For complete details on Social Security benefits, visit the SSA website
 

If you would like to discuss your retirement plans, we’re here for you.

*This article is based on information from the Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov

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