Should I Wait to Start My Social Security Benefits?

Deciding when to begin taking your social security retirement benefits can be difficult because there are many factors to consider. Even if you plan to keep working, social security benefits are available to most workers as early as age 62, but you can delay collecting up until age 70 or choose any age in between.

The first step in making your decision is to determine your full retirement age (FRA)—the age at which you can collect your full benefits. For workers born between 1943 and 1954, the FRA is 66; for those born later, the FRA gradually increases to age 67. Claiming benefits prior to your FRA can reduce your monthly payment by as much as 30 percent—but you will receive benefits for a longer period. If you postpone claiming benefits beyond your FRA, your social security payment will increase by a certain percentage, depending on your year of birth, until you reach age 70.

It’s important to consider your options carefully. The decision to claim benefits early can result in a lower standard of living for the rest of your life. And claiming later can mean more financial security for your surviving spouse.

The benefit reduction incurred by claiming early is permanent. If you elect to start receiving benefits early, your benefits will still be increased annually by cost-of-living allowances. But despite social security’s annual inflation adjustment, your payments may never equal the benefit you would have received by waiting until your FRA.

What timeline is best for you? You can crunch the numbers using AARP’s Social Security Benefits Calculator.

How Benefits Differ Based On Starting Age

benefits chart2

Source: Social Security Administration. The chart illustrates how benefits can differ based on the age at which you start receiving social security. It assumes a benefit of $1,000 per month at age 66. Your benefits will be based on your own work history and may differ.