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When should you take Social Security?

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If you're approaching retirement, you may be thinking about Social Security. Here are some of the facts to consider as you decide when to start receiving your Social Security benefits.

If you're eligible for Social Security benefits, you are entitled to claim benefit payments as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The benefit amount for every individual is designed to pay the same total amount over an average lifetime. The earlier you start, the lower your monthly benefit and the later you start, the higher your monthly benefit.

Know when you can commence benefits

The following information may help you consider your choices. And, it is always recommended that you consult a financial professional.

Year of Birth

Full (Normal)
Retirement Age

1937 or earlier

65

1938

65 + 2 months

1939

65 + 4 months

1940

65 + 6 months

1941

65 + 8 months

1942

65 + 10 months

1943–1954

66

1955

66 + 2 months

1956

66 + 4 months

1957

66 + 6 months

1958

66 + 8 months

1959

66 + 10 months

1960 or later

67

Source: ssa.gov, accessed April 28, 2017.

Early Benefits – If you choose early benefits, you'll face some limitations. Social Security benefits are reduced by $1 for every $2 of earned income, so it may not make sense to begin benefits early if you continue to work. However, if you have other pension income and personal savings, and you don't plan on working in retirement, consider whether starting your Social Security benefits early makes sense for your circumstances.

Full Benefits – After you reach full retirement age—between 65 and 67, depending on when you were born (see table)—you can receive full benefits with no limit on earnings. The combination of a higher benefit, plus the option to continue to earn money without having to forfeit any benefits, may be just what it takes to balance your personal retirement equation.

Delayed Benefits – If you delay Social Security until age 70, your monthly benefits will be approximately twice what they would have been had you started collecting eight years earlier, at age 62. If you plan to continue working well into your 60s, and if you're healthy and longevity runs in your family, delayed benefits can work in your favor if you outlive your "break-even date." That date is the point where early benefits and late benefits overlap. The Social Security Administration provides an online Early or Late Retirement calculator that can show the implications of delaying benefits in your personal situation.

Choosing Your Strategy

In order to determine the best time to claim your Social Security benefits, you should weigh your plans to continue working, your current health, family longevity, financial need and other factors. Your gender and marital status may also play a role in your decision. What's best for single people isn't necessarily what's best for married couples—and what's best for men isn't necessarily what's best for women. Take advantage of the information that the Social Security Administration provides. With the right information, you can make the decision that is best for you.

Learn more and take action

Want to learn more about Social Security?

  • Take advantage of the information that the Social Security Administration provides at ssa.gov, as well as at regional offices throughout the country.
  • Watch this video on making choices about Social Security.
 
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