When Can You Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

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You can start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 and as late as age 70. You are entitled to full benefits when you reach normal retirement age or "full retirement age," according to the Social Security Administration. Learn more about when you can draw Social Security benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • You can start receiving benefits as early as age 62, but the monthly amount will be reduced if you take benefits before your full retirement age.
  • Your benefits increase every year you delay starting Social Security after full retirement age until age 70, when the increase stops.
  • You can still work while receiving Social Security benefits, but working will reduce your benefits before your full retirement age.
  • You can use the Social Security website to calculate the best time for you to start collecting benefits.

Full Retirement Age

For anyone born after 1937, full retirement age is between 65 and 67 years old, depending on when you were born. If you were born between 1937 and 1942, full retirement age is 65. If you were born after 1942, your retirement age is 66 or 67. Here are the ages to receive full Social Security retirement benefits.

Age to Receive Full Social Security Retirement Benefits
Year of Birth Full Retirement Age
1943–1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67

If you were born on January 1, you refer to the previous year to determine your full retirement age.

Receiving Social Security Benefits Early

If you start receiving Social Security at age 62, your monthly benefits will be reduced accordingly by as much as 30%. Benefits increase with each year as you approach full retirement age, at which point you will receive the full amount.

If you start Social Security after age 62 but before you reach your full retirement age, your benefits will still be reduced, but not as much. Social Security reduces your benefit by 5/9 of 1% for each month before your full retirement age for up to 36 months. If you retire more than 36 months before your full retirement age, you lose an additional 5/12 of 1% per month. The formula can be complicated, so the best way to know exactly what you'll receive based on when you plan to retire is to visit the Social Security website and log into your account or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

Waiting to Receive Social Security Benefits

If you delay receiving Social Security benefits until after full retirement age, you will get benefit credits that increase the amount you receive once you do start. But that increase stops once you've reached age 70.

For example, if your full retirement age is 67, you would receive an 8% increase each year that you postpone receiving your benefits until you reach age 70. However, if you delay receiving your benefits, you must still apply for Medicare before age 65. You can start the process, called open enrollment, three months before the month of your 65th birthday. Your open enrollment lasts for three months after the month you turn 65.

If you miss your open enrollment, or you don't enroll in Medicare Part B because you have coverage through work or a spouse, you'll have opportunities to enroll later.

If you don't sign up for Medicare Part B during open enrollment and you don't have other coverage, you could be charged a penalty of 10% for each year you delayed enrollment once you do enroll.

How Does Work Affect Social Security Benefits?

You can receive Social Security benefits and work at the same time. In fact, you can collect at age 62 whether you’re working or not. However, if you collect benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits will be temporarily reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn above $18,960 per year in 2021. If you work during the year you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for every $3 you earn above a higher limit ($50,520 in 2021), but only counting earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age. 

Once you reach full retirement age, you can receive your benefits with no limit on your earnings. You are also paid back the earnings that were held while you were working.

When Should You Start Social Security?

The Social Security Administration does not have a recommended age to start receiving benefits. The decision is entirely up to you. You'll get a little bit less if you start early, or a bigger benefit if you wait until 70. You can calculate the difference on the SSA website. You may receive a bigger payout over your lifetime if you wait, but that might not be as important as receiving income now, especially if you can no longer work for health reasons. Ultimately, the right age depends on your financial situation, your work, and your health.