When To Take Social Security Payments: Your Age Matters

Knowing when to take Social Security is tricky. Before you start taking benefits, learn the rules and your full retirement age.

Man Holding Back Hands Of Time In Front Of Social Security Card
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The question of when to take Social Security benefits is a tricky one. Of course, the short answer is that you become eligible to start taking benefits when you turn 62, but that might not be the best time for you to start tapping those benefits.

One of the most important factors determining when you should start taking benefits is your age — covered here in detail. However, be sure you know other key questions to ask yourself before you claim Social Security. For example, if you're still working, do an earnings test to understand how your payments might be lowered. Come from a long-lived family? You'll need to make sure you plan for increased longevity. You may even be able to get a public pension and full social security benefits. And don't forget to consider tax implications and how starting benefits might affect your spouse

Age 62 marks only the beginning of eligibility for Social Security; it does not put you at what's called "full retirement age" (FRA). In other words, you won't become eligible for full benefits until you reach your FRA, which differs depending on your birth year.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

Here is a summary of when you will reach your FRA, by birth year. If you were born:

  • In 1960 or later, your FRA is age 67.
  • In 1959, your FRA is age 66 and 10 months.
  • In 1957, your FRA is age 66 and six months.
  • In 1956, your FRA is age 66 and four months.
  • In 1955, your FRA is 66 and two months.
  • Between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age (FRA) is age 66.

Here's what happens if you start tapping Social Security at age 62

Starting to take Social Security at age 62 will dramatically decrease the size of the monthly payments you will receive, which is why many retirees wait a few years to start tapping the benefits. The more months remaining between age 62 and your FRA, the more your monthly payments will be reduced.

For example, if you were born after 1960, your full retirement age is 67. If you start your benefits at age 62, a $1,000 monthly benefit would be reduced to $700. And if you are married, your spouse's monthly benefit would drop from $500 to $350. Your total family income from social security would be $450 less than if you had waited until your full retirement age. 

The Social Security Administration's (SSA) "Full Retirement and Age 62 Benefit By Year Of Birth" table gives a more detailed list of this effect. You can also refer to the SSA's Retirement Age Calculator, which provides two helpful numbers. First, it calculates your full retirement age, as you might expect. Second, it generates a table showing the percentage decrease in benefits you and your spouse would receive for each year and month you retire before your FRA. 

The SSA also has some additional footnotes. For example, those born on Jan. 1 should use the previous year's numbers. Similarly, those born on the first of the month should use the previous month's numbers. Additionally, you have to be at least 62 years old for an entire month before you will be eligible to receive Social Security benefits.

That said, there are some valid reasons to take Social Security early. For example, if you are in poor health or no longer want to work, you might consider tapping Social Security. But be careful because it is difficult to stop and restart Social Security once you have claimed benefits.

Why it might make sense to wait 

If you wait until age 70 to start taking Social Security, your monthly payments will increase. This is one reason many seniors wait to start claiming benefits, especially if they’re in good health. 

For example, those born in 1943 or later will see a 12-month rate of increase of 8%. This rate falls to 7.5% for those born in 1941 and 1942 and 7% for those born in 1939 or 1940. However, those increases stop when you reach age 70, so it doesn't make sense to wait beyond age 70.

Alternatively, many retirees split the difference between 62 and 70, tapping benefits starting at age 65. Medicare eligibility is perhaps the biggest reason to start taking benefits at age 65 because you gain access to health insurance at that age.

So, it can be a good idea to wait until age 65 to quit working. If you retire before then, you may not have access to affordable health insurance without Medicare.

Turning 67 in 2024? 

The age to collect full Social Security benefits has been moving from age 65 to age 67 incrementally since 1983. Turning 67 in 2024, is a critical point in retirement planning for those born in 1957 if you haven't already applied to collect your Social Security benefits. 

Here are a three important things to be aware of as you celebrate your 67th birthday:

Your true full retirement age. If you are turning 67 in 2024, you'll be past full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security purposes. FRA is 66 and six months for people born in 1957. So if you decide to claim benefits in 2024, you'll be eligible for those benefits in full without a reduction. In fact, you'll actually be looking at a boosted benefit because you'll be filing after your precise FRA. 

You'll get an extra 2/3 of 1% for each month you delay after your FRA. If you begin collecting benefits at 67 you are choosing to receive benefits 6 months after you reach your FRA of 66 and 6 months. retirement age. Your benefit will be 104% or 4% more than your primary insurance amount. 

Delaying Social Security until age 70 will further increase your lifetime benefit. While you get an extra 2/3 of 1% for each month you delay after your birthday month, you can further increase your benefit up to 8% for each full year you wait until age 70. If you wait until 70 or later, your monthly benefit is 128.0% or 28% higher than if you started to collect benefits at your FRA of 66 and 6 months. 

If you're still working, it especially pays to let your Social Security benefit grow if your paycheck allows you to cover your expenses. The more monthly Social Security income you can set yourself up with, the better off you might be financially as you age.

You'll need to sign up for Medicare if you retire and lose your employer health insurance. Medicare eligibility begins at age 65. You have a six month window to enroll  that starts three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months after that month. If you don't sign up for Medicare on time, you risk a lifelong surcharge on your Part B premiums. 

If you're still covered by a qualifying group health plan at the time of your initial enrollment window that penalty is waived. You'll need to look into Medicare enrollment if you are planning to retire in 2024 and give up your group health coverage. You get an eight-month special enrollment period in this situation that begins the month after your group health coverage ends. 

The bottom line 

Deciding when to start taking benefits is a critical and personal choice that depends on multiple factors. For example, you'll need to consider the size of your nest egg, whether you're still working, whether you're in good health with the potential for living to an older age, and other factors.  In addition, your decision should weigh whether you still have health insurance or if you are eligible for benefits on someone else's record.

Of course, the earlier you start taking Social Security, the longer you will receive monthly payments. However, your monthly payments are reduced if you start taking benefits earlier, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every senior.


Jacob Wolinsky

Jacob is the founder and CEO of ValueWalk. What started as a hobby 10 years ago turned into a well-known financial media empire focusing in particular on simplifying the opaque world of the hedge fund world. Before doing ValueWalk full time, Jacob worked as an equity analyst specializing in mid and small-cap stocks. Jacob also worked in business development for hedge funds. He lives with his wife and five children in New Jersey. Full Disclosure: Jacob only invests in broad-based ETFs and mutual funds to avoid any conflict of interest.

With contributions from