When Is the Best Time to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

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By Daryl Rosenthal,
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Tampa FL

Enjoying 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 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 ssa.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  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 socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire

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