When Is a Good Time to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

a woman gardeningEnjoying a comfortable retirement is everyone’s dream. For over 80 years, Social Security has been helping people realize those dreams, assisting people through life’s journey with a variety of benefits. It’s up to you as to when you can start retirement benefits. You could start them a little earlier or wait until your “full retirement age.” There are benefits to either decision, pun intended.

Full retirement age refers to the age when a person can receive their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to stop working to get your full benefits.

For people who attain age 62 in 2017 (i.e., those born between January 2, 1955 and January 1, 1956), full retirement age is 66 and two months. Full retirement age was age 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.

You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html.

You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or any time after that. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be, although it stops increasing at age 70. Your monthly benefits will be reduced permanently if you start them any time before your full retirement age. For example, if you start receiving benefits in 2017 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently by about 26 percent.

On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full retirement age, then your monthly benefit will be higher. The amount of this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month –– or eight percent for each year –– that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you receive benefits early, it may reduce their potential benefit, as well as yours.

You need to be as informed as possible when making any decision about receiving Social Security benefits. Read the publication When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf.

If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. Social Security may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount. However, for every month benefits are withheld, it increases your future benefits. That’s because at your full retirement age Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for the months in which benefits were reduced or withheld due to your excess earnings. In effect, it’s as if you hadn’t filed for those months. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html.

Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow. Helping you make the right retirement decisions is vital. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire.

facebooktwitterlinkedin

60 thoughts on “When Is a Good Time to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

    • Hi Kathy. The Windfall Elimination Provision or WEP is still in effect, and we have not received any reports of changes to this law. A pension based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, Federal civil service and some State or local government agencies, such as police officers and some teachers), may cause the amount of your Social Security benefit to be reduced. Your Social Security benefit can be reduced based on one of two provisions: The Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.

  1. I think you should mention two things: if you take retirement at 62 instead age 70 you collect 8 years of benefits – if you live so long that was a bad decision after you reach 82 and if you die sooner you have collected more and if you die before 70 you would have collected nothing that you had put in. The other point I am asking you to explain–I should have taken on my husband’s benefits first and no one told me about that–it is a little known option.

    • My husband died in 2010. I am having a hard time since. I get some money on my own earnings, but what about all he paid in . Who took that money? I am 77 years old now and in a senior center which is very expensive,

      • I believe you can either continue to receive your benefits or file for his (and lose yours) . Check with you local SS office to see which amount is higher….

        • Social Security will not tell you anything that is to your benefit. They should not encourage people to take benefits at 62. You get alot less than if you wait for full retirement age. Hang on until 70 if you can and the benefits are better. They and the government (regardless of party) do not care that most people do not have a back up retirement and that SS is all they will have for retirement. After all they don’t depend on it, their retirement system is separate and different, gouging the taxpayers like a knife in the back.

          • Hi Patti. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. If a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to their full retirement age, their benefit amount is reduced. In the other hand, you earn Delayed Retirement Credits when and if you delay getting your benefit up until age 70. To help individuals plan for the future, we ask them to use our Retirement Planner. Also, we ask them to create a my Social Security account. With a personal my Social Security account, individuals can review and verify their earnings, get their Social Security Statement, and much more. We hope this information helps!

      • Do you have a family member or someone who can help you navigate the system? Sometimes community centers or cities will have a case manager or social worker who serves seniors. You may be eligible to receive your husband’s benefit instead of your own. Also, your senior living facility may not like this but maybe it is time to find a less expensive place to live.

      • Hello Ms. Petroske. Sometimes, a person may be eligible to more than one benefit at the same time. For example, a person may be entitled as a retired worker on his or her own record and as a spouse or a widow on another record. Under current law, a person’s benefit amount can never exceed the highest single benefit amount to which that person is entitled. In your case, it is likely that you are receiving the highest benefit amount that you’re entitled to. For more information and to speak to one of our representatives, call our toll free number 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

      • What she is saying is that everyone who files for retirement benefits has a choice of taking a reduction in the amount for claiming it early and before the full retirement age (FRA), currently age 66, or delaying until as late as age 70. Once you reach age 66 you can obtain an additional 2/3% per month until age 70 in the monthly amount through the receipt of delayed retirement benefits (32% total). So there is a wide range of choice. If you wait to file, you are gambling that you will outlive the breakeven point where under either choice of earliest or latest, you would have accumulated the same total amount of benefits paid. There are other aspects that are individual: do you have other retirement income, how will your taxes be affected, etc.

        The rule about starting as a spouse and then switching to your highest retirement amount at 70 depends on certain factors. You have to wait until your FRA to file as a spouse. Then you wait until age 70 to file for your own benefits. You cannot file for one or the other before your FRA otherwise “deemed filing” applies and you only get the higher of the two.

        Congress pulled these options away in 2015 as it was not the original intent. Being eligible as a spouse was supposed to occur because your own earnings were too low to result in a higher amount. So the loophole was closed. If you turn 62 in 2016 or later, you can only get the higher of the two regardless of your age. In addition, if your spouse suspended his/her own retirement checks to make you eligible, any month he/she does not collect a payment you don’t either. Senator Schumer once said that the SS system was not designed to be a huge ATM. That included people who collect their benefits, collect interest or investment gains and then pay back SSA, keeping all the interest or other gains. You cannot withdraw after one year of receiving retirement benefits any more. Only 3-4% of the population can afford to manipulate these entitlements, taking money out of a system that is running low on assets. That was unfair to the other 96% of recipients dependent on the system for their main retirement income. To a minority of recipients it seems unfair, but that ignores the bigger picture of the larger pool of recipients, where it was the right thing to do.

    • Thank you for your comment Dena. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to start receiving retirement benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. If you have specific questions, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and speak with one of our representatives.

        • Hi Kevin. There is no penalty if you want to delay your benefits until age 64. For Retirement Benefits, we use the individual’s highest 35 years of earnings, to compute his or her monthly benefit amount. As you know, you can start receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you decide to get benefits before your full retirement age, they will be reduced. In the other hand, starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits. You may find our Early or Late Retirement Calculator helpful. Happy planning!

  2. So the bottom line is:
    A) Take SS sooner – receive less $$ per month but more $$ over the course of your life.
    B) Take SS later – receive more $$ per month and less $$ over the course of your life.
    Since there is no guarantee as to one’s mortality, I say – stay in the middle. I am 67 yrs old, newly retired and receiving a pension. I have opted to start receiving SS at age 68 which will give me a descent increase to my pension income (about $2,600/mo).

  3. Lyndon B Johnson, back in 60’s started tapping into the social security funds to use for other government expenses, thereby stealing social security funds from all of us who paid into it. When are those funds going to be paid back to the social security fund and WHEN is the government going to stop using ss money for government expenses OTHER THAN STRICKLY SOCIAL SECURITY, FOR WHICH IT IS INTENDED.

    • This is not partisan. Every president has done this. And Congress was entirely complicit…again both parties. The money invested by SSA in Treasury bills was not kept off budget allowing politicians to claim a smaller deficit than really existed. Since the money was not kept separate, it created a huge set of IOUs. Think of Harry and Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber when they spent the stolen loot and put IOUs in the case. Take a pat on the back for voting for Harry and Lloyd in every election since 1964. After 60 years that horse left the barn a long, long time ago.

      • Paid back with Treasury notes? And what backs the Treasury notes.? It’s called the D.C. Shuffle -a nifty little dance that originated in Congress. The lyrics are good and the tune is catchy and you never feel yourself being fleeced.

  4. Alllow individuals to invest their paid in funds in safe private investments. Keep the Politicians grubby hands out of your DEDUCTED contributions !!!!!
    We can blame the democrats for this corrupt practice………..,,,

    • Ah, yes, “safe” private investments…you mean like the stock market in 1929? Or the stock market crash in 2007???

      Sorry, many people (myself included) LOST half or more of their 401 (k)s, and those are in Money Market accoints, about as “safe” as you can get (except tor TREASURY BONDS, which is what the SSA Trust fund s repaid with). The people who were in the actual stock market actually took a bigger bath – except of course, the hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and corporate CEOs; they made out just fine.

      That’s the reason Social Security was created; in order to ensure we (the average person) would have SOMETHING at least to keep us off the street in our old age. It’s invested and kept safe for ALL people, not just those who are well off or comfortable enough to be able to accumulate enough to save for a decent retirement. As I’m sure you’re aware, most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, most are in debt and can’t even get out, and most of us are unable to save even for emergencies, and certainly not for retirement.

  5. I am appeal my case because I don’t think its ok for social security administration try to stop a person who is disable social security benefits

  6. It would be soooo nice if these articles included an option to print! This is information that most of us need to refer to again and again as we go through this process…it would be nice to have someone think like us/understand our needs when publishing this information.

    • Highlight the article – hit copy (on your mouse or ctrl c on your computer) than paste it into an email or a word document. You can print it that way

  7. Why can’t my wife receive widow’s SS if I died just because she is a Teacher with her own retirement. This is discrimation for her working

    • There are quite a few “civil servants” that opted out of Social Security and instead got into program like PERS. Both my husband and I have paid into Social Security. If he dies, I will be able to collect ONE payment from Social Security either his or mine. That same rule applies to “civil servants”….. and rightly so.

  8. Because my daughter had Ovarian Cancer for three and a half years, I had to start my benefits at the age of 62. She passed away on December 28, 2015. I was born in 1951. I am now 65. Are you telling me that I can only get my SS for a few years? I am so confused over all of this. Also why do they take out for Medicare? I paid for Medicare when I pay taxes every year. None of this was explained to me. Thank you

    • Go to the Social Security website. There is a lot of great information about Social Security and Medicare. If you have questions about your Medicare – which you may not even know you have – go talk with a HICAP counselor. Hopefully there is one in your area. No one gets this information until its too late sometimes and it can be overwhelming. A HICAP counselor (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocate Program) are not insurance agents so they will explain your options and hopefully save you money by getting you into the right plan.

    • We are sorry to hear about your loss Debbie. Social Security (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) programs and Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) program are financed primarily by employment taxes. Most people don’t pay a premium for Part A (HI) because they or a spouse already paid for it through their payroll taxes while working. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover doctors’ services and outpatient care. It also covers some other medical services that Part A doesn’t cover, such as some of the services of physical and occupational therapists, and some home health care. Part B helps pay for these covered services and supplies when they are medically necessary. Please visit http://www.medicare.gov for more information.

    • Debbie.Smith, you can receive your Social Security Retirement as long as you live. But, you Social Security Retirement will be reduced for the rest of your life because you took Early Retirement.

      The money you pay for Medicare now are monthly insurance premiums. You also have co/pay and deductibles to pay like with any insurance.

  9. I would like to know why a retired teacher can only draw half of the social security benefits they would be entitled to if they did not have a teacher retirement. When he was teaching it took a job plus teaching (salaries were not what they are today) to raise our family and it seems unfair that SS keeps half of it. Thanks

    • There must be more to that story. His time as a teacher is being paid through a teacher retirement. For his other job did he work his 40 quarters to qualify for Social Security? You can go on-line to the Social Security website to see how many years qualified and what his amount should be. If it does not make sense then call Social Security.

  10. I just learned that I am able to collect on my husbands 50 % of his benefits which is higher than mine. My husband is now 77 years old and I’m 76. Is it too late to apply for the 50 % benfits of my husbands. And if so will I get back pay from the time he retired at 65 years?

    • I THINK WE ARE HUMANS BEEN WE NEED TO SURVIVE LIKE FREE HUMAN RIGHTS AND I THINK SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION AS TO MANY RULES FOR THE PEOPLE WE HAVE TO SURVIVE LIKE HUMAN BEINGS AND THE CONGRESS PEOPLE HAVE TO STEP AND CHANGE THE SSA LAW WE THE PEOPLE
      IN GOD WE TRUST U.S.A WE STAND FOR THE GOOD LIFE NOT FOR BAD BEHAVIOR.SSA IN THIS COUNTRY CALL THE LAND OF THE WORLD CONGRESS PLEASE HELP US.TO MUCH RULES FOR US GOVERNMENT TO STRONG PLEASE HELP US WE THE PEOPLE

    • Thank you for your question Mary. Generally, we check for all other benefits that you may be eligible at the time you apply for your retirement benefits. Your benefit as a spouse can only be equal to one-half of your husband’s full retirement amount if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. Also, when you qualify for Social Security benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. But if you also qualify for a higher amount as a spouse, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. We hope this provides some clarity. If you have specific questions, please call our toll free telephone number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

  11. There is a glaring misstatement in this blog post. As I retired former SSA claims rep, I know that applying for a retirement early may limit the potential monthly survivor benefit payable to a spouse in the future, but the OPPOSITE is true for a spouse who is currently eligible. The spouse will permanently LOSE a monthly payment for every month that the higher wage earner delays applying for retirement, and if that spouse has already reached full retirement age when the wage earner becomes eliligible for retirement, she (or he) will not receive a higher monthly benefit by delaying it. A spouse can no longer begin receive benefits before the wage earner begins receiving retirement benefits, and neither can any minor or disabled children, unless the wage earner is deceased or.disabled. That is the correct information, and hopefully it will prevent some people from losing benefits because of a badly- worded sentence on an official agency blog post.

    I should also point out that several years ago, the SSA policy manual was rewritten to prohibit SSA employees from doing a breakeven calculation or advising clients regarding which month to begin receiving benefits; employees were instructed to accept the client’s choice, even if the employee knew that choice was not necessarily the one which appeared to give the client the greatest advantage. As I stated in my book, “Get Yours! How to SUPERSIZE Your Social Security,” it was like forcing a doctor to give a patient any drug or surgical treatment they requested, just because it was the patient’s own personal choice (no matter if the doctor knew better based on training and experience.) That amounts to deliberate negligence on the part of SSA top management, as a response to the staffing pressures created by Congress, whose unreasonable budget constraints have crippled Social Security field operations to the point where they cannot afford the time to allow employees to do their job properly. They are not allowed to explain be benefit options fully because they just don’t have the time. The agency hopes that nearly everyone will learn everything they need to know online and be able to understand what is best for themselves. It’s almost like doing a Google search and then attempting to do surgery on yourself! You might get it right, but some things are best left to trained, experienced professionals.

  12. I be 63 in April 2017 but do not plan to retire until after my FRA, around Dec so I would be 66 and 8 months, & get an average of 5 years of pension that is calculated using the last 5 years that I work. It would be silly for me to leave in the middle of the year and only get 4.5 years. I am also a widow since age 48. My husband never got to retire, he was 59.5 yrs old when he passed away. I have studied the SS and figure that I should take my pension at the end of Dec when I am at FRA, will I also be able to get survivor money and be able to use his SS until I turn 70 yrs old, putting mine on hold? When I turn 70 switch to my social security benefits?

    • Hi Maria, thank you for using our blog to contact us. Here is more information to consider, when making the decision on “when to apply for Social Security benefits”. First, if you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can receive reduced benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled). In many cases, a widow can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate. Also, if you qualify for benefits as a Survivor, your full retirement age may be different. You can still work and receive some or all of your Social Security benefits. Visit our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working, and read our publication: How Work Affects Your Benefits for more information. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. If you have specific questions, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and speak with one of our representatives. We hope this information helps!

  13. I believe that the retirement age was pushed up so no one would get the pay. At 70 you won’t live long enough to enjoy retirement 62 should be the age to retire with full benefits. I believe that it is so hard on the seniors today so they have a hard time making ends meet. If someone pays in for so many years why can they not have their money? I think the whole thing is just a mess. The people that never pay into anything receive more and faster makes no sence to me. I understand disability if that person is really disabled but I see so many that are able to work somewhere and get paid.

  14. If you are still working at your FRA, can you collect your deceased spouses’ SS without any penalty and then switch to yours at age 70?

    • Thank you for your question Lee. In many cases, a widow can restrict the scope of their application and start receiving their survivor’s benefits, while delaying their own retirement benefit and earn delayed retirement credits. As a widow, if you are also eligible for retirement benefits (but haven’t applied yet), you may apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date. The rules can vary depending on the situation. We recommend that you contact your local office or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Keep in mind that if you were born January 2, 1955, through January 1, 1956, then your full retirement age for retirement insurance benefits is 66 and 2 months. If you work, and are full retirement age or older, you may keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

    • Hi, if you get Social Security disability or retirement benefits and you marry, your benefit will stay the same. Click here to see how marriage may affect other benefits.

Leave a Reply - (comment policy)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *