When to Start Taking Social Security Benefits

As you near retirement, you’re looking forward to receiving a monthly social security check. But first you must decide when to begin taking your Social Security benefits.

You have three options, and you’ll have to chose one of the following:

  1. Begin taking benefits between age 62 and your full retirement age; or
  2. Wait until your full retirement age (which depends on your birthdate); or
  3. Delay benefits and take them anytime up until you reach age 70.

Which is right? More than two-thirds of people start their benefits early. But unless you need money early and don’t really have a choice, you might want to wait a while longer so you can collect a bigger check later.

There is no one right answer. There are many factors to consider, including whether you plan to keep working, your health and life expectancy, your spouse’s needs, and the availability of other retirement plans. For example, if you’re going to continue to work, you will be better off waiting. However, if you have poor health and a shortened life expectancy you probably should start your benefits early.

Full retirement age used to always be age 65. Now, it is still age 65 if you were born before 1937. If you were born after 1937, the “full retirement age” (the age when your Social Security is no longer increased by your work earnings), increases gradually until it reaches age 67 for people born in 1960 or later.

Full retirement age is a benchmark date for Social Security. If you receive Social Security between age 62 and your full retirement age, you’ll get less per month than if you’d waited until your full retirement age. Waiting beyond the full retirement age means your benefit will increase by 6 to 8 percent (depending on the year you were born) for every year that you delay, plus any cost-of-living increases.