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At what age should I start receiving my Social Security retirement benefits?

Deciding when to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits is a critical decision that affects your monthly benefit amount for the rest of your life

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The earliest age to receive Social Security retirement benefits is 62, but it comes with a reduced benefit of up to 30% compared to waiting until your full retirement age.

Here are some key points to consider

  • Full Retirement Age: If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66. If you were born between 1955 and 1959, your full retirement age increases gradually to 66 and 2 months, 66 and 4 months, 66 and 6 months, 66 and 8 months, and 66 and 10 months, respectively. For those born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67.
  • Early Retirement: You can start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but your benefits will be reduced by as much as 30% below what you would get if you waited until your full retirement age.
  • Delayed Retirement: If you delay claiming your benefits, your monthly amount will increase for each month of delay, and these adjustments are permanent. For recipients born in 1943 or later, 8 percent is added to the yearly benefit amount for each year the recipient delays receiving Social Security benefits beyond their full retirement age. No delayed credit is given after age 69.
  • Life Expectancy: Since women generally live longer than men, they may benefit more from delayed retirement credits. The “average” survival rates used to calculate the increase in benefits are based on both men and women, and women typically live about three years longer than men.
  • Survivor Benefits: If a worker delays retirement, they increase both their monthly benefit amount and the benefit their survivor will receive.
  • Medicare Benefits: If you wait longer than three months after your 65th birthday to apply for Medicare, your medical insurance and prescription drug coverage may cost more.

Factors when deciding when to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits

  • Your income needs: If you need the benefits to support your living expenses, you may want to consider starting them earlier.
  • Your health: If you have health issues or a shorter life expectancy, you may want to consider starting your benefits earlier.
  • Your spouse’s benefits: If you’re married, your spouse may be eligible for some benefits depending on your work record. So, you may want to consider coordinating your benefits with your spouse’s to maximize your combined income.
  • Your other income sources: If you have other sources of income, such as a pension or retirement accounts, you may be able to delay starting your Social Security benefits.

Ultimately, the decision of when to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits is a personal one and depends on your individual circumstances. It’s important to carefully consider your options and consult with a financial advisor if needed. When you reach your full retirement age, you can work and earn as much as you want and still get your full Social Security benefit. If you’re younger than full retirement age, and if your earnings exceed certain dollar amounts, some of your benefit payments within the 1 year period will be withheld. This doesn’t mean you must try to limit your earnings. If some of your benefits are being withheld, it’s because you continue to work, so you’ll be paid a higher monthly benefit when you reach your full retirement age. So, if you work and earn more than the exempt amount, it won’t, on average, decrease the total value of your lifetime Social Security benefits — it could even increase that value.

In summary, the decision of when to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits depends on your individual circumstances and priorities. If you need the benefits early, you can start as young as 62, but your benefits will be reduced. If you can delay, your benefits will increase, and you may receive more in the long run with every delay and those changes are permanent. It’s essential to consider your options carefully and consult with a financial advisor if needed.

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