When Is a Good Time to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

February 13, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: February 13, 2017

a woman gardeningEnjoying a comfortable retirement is everyone’s dream. For over 80 years, Social Security has been helping people realize those dreams, assisting people through life’s journey with a variety of benefits. It’s up to you as to when you can start retirement benefits. You could start them a little earlier or wait until your “full retirement age.” There are benefits to either decision, pun intended.

Full retirement age refers to the age when a person can receive their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to stop working to get your full benefits.

For people who attain age 62 in 2017 (i.e., those born between January 2, 1955 and January 1, 1956), full retirement age is 66 and two months. Full retirement age was age 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.

You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at

You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or any time after that. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be, although it stops increasing at age 70. Your monthly benefits will be reduced permanently if you start them any time before your full retirement age. For example, if you start receiving benefits in 2017 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently by about 26 percent.

On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full retirement age, then your monthly benefit will be higher. The amount of this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month –– or eight percent for each year –– that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you receive benefits early, it may reduce their potential benefit, as well as yours.

You need to be as informed as possible when making any decision about receiving Social Security benefits. Read the publication When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at

If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. Social Security may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount. However, for every month benefits are withheld, it increases your future benefits. That’s because at your full retirement age Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for the months in which benefits were reduced or withheld due to your excess earnings. In effect, it’s as if you hadn’t filed for those months. You can learn more at

Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow. Helping you make the right retirement decisions is vital. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Dorene R.

    I would like to know why a retired teacher can only draw half of the social security benefits they would be entitled to if they did not have a teacher retirement. When he was teaching it took a job plus teaching (salaries were not what they are today) to raise our family and it seems unfair that SS keeps half of it. Thanks

    • Aloha G.

      There must be more to that story. His time as a teacher is being paid through a teacher retirement. For his other job did he work his 40 quarters to qualify for Social Security? You can go on-line to the Social Security website to see how many years qualified and what his amount should be. If it does not make sense then call Social Security.

      • thomas d.

        As a teacher I get my full school retirement and my full social security.

      • Dorene R.

        Yes he worked enough quarters to draw Medicare, but SS check is only 1/2 of the true benefits. I don’t understand why some can get full benefits and other not.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Dorene. Your Social Security benefit can be reduced based on one of two provisions: The Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision, if you receive a pension based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, Federal civil service and some State or local government agencies, such as police officers and some teachers).

  2. Debbie.Smith

    Because my daughter had Ovarian Cancer for three and a half years, I had to start my benefits at the age of 62. She passed away on December 28, 2015. I was born in 1951. I am now 65. Are you telling me that I can only get my SS for a few years? I am so confused over all of this. Also why do they take out for Medicare? I paid for Medicare when I pay taxes every year. None of this was explained to me. Thank you

    • Aloha G.

      Go to the Social Security website. There is a lot of great information about Social Security and Medicare. If you have questions about your Medicare – which you may not even know you have – go talk with a HICAP counselor. Hopefully there is one in your area. No one gets this information until its too late sometimes and it can be overwhelming. A HICAP counselor (Health Insurance Counseling and Advocate Program) are not insurance agents so they will explain your options and hopefully save you money by getting you into the right plan.

      • Debbie.Smith

        Thank you!

    • Ray F.

      We are sorry to hear about your loss Debbie. Social Security (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) programs and Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) program are financed primarily by employment taxes. Most people don’t pay a premium for Part A (HI) because they or a spouse already paid for it through their payroll taxes while working. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover doctors’ services and outpatient care. It also covers some other medical services that Part A doesn’t cover, such as some of the services of physical and occupational therapists, and some home health care. Part B helps pay for these covered services and supplies when they are medically necessary. Please visit for more information.

      • Lesly F.

        I ray you think is ok for some request for a appeal for ssi Di benefit and is check still stop what do you think

        • Ray F.

          Hi Lesly. The most important thing to remember about an appeal is the time-frame during which you can ask for one. Depending in what type of appeal you’re requesting, you may only have 10 days or 60 days to request an appeal. If you don’t request an appeal within the required time limit, you may lose your right to an appeal and the last decision we made becomes final. In some cases, if you have a good reason for not appealing your case within the time limits, we may give you more time. Please continue working with your local office on this matter. If you are unable to visit your local servicing office, you may call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. Thanks.

    • Hope F.

      Debbie.Smith, you can receive your Social Security Retirement as long as you live. But, you Social Security Retirement will be reduced for the rest of your life because you took Early Retirement.

      The money you pay for Medicare now are monthly insurance premiums. You also have co/pay and deductibles to pay like with any insurance.

  3. Dennis S.

    Why can’t my wife receive widow’s SS if I died just because she is a Teacher with her own retirement. This is discrimation for her working

    • AKA

      Write to your congressman, don’t whine here.

      • Susan

        Coral, punch control, then print for a copy.It works great!

    • Aloha G.

      There are quite a few “civil servants” that opted out of Social Security and instead got into program like PERS. Both my husband and I have paid into Social Security. If he dies, I will be able to collect ONE payment from Social Security either his or mine. That same rule applies to “civil servants”….. and rightly so.

  4. Coral

    It would be soooo nice if these articles included an option to print! This is information that most of us need to refer to again and again as we go through this process…it would be nice to have someone think like us/understand our needs when publishing this information.

    • kathy O.

      Highlight the article – hit copy (on your mouse or ctrl c on your computer) than paste it into an email or a word document. You can print it that way

  5. Lesly F.

    I am appeal my case because I don’t think its ok for social security administration try to stop a person who is disable social security benefits

    • AKA

      I approve your appeal, you are not stop, proceed to go.

  6. Marcel

    Alllow individuals to invest their paid in funds in safe private investments. Keep the Politicians grubby hands out of your DEDUCTED contributions !!!!!
    We can blame the democrats for this corrupt practice………..,,,

    • Aloha G.

      Marcel, as stated above this is not a Democrat issue. Both parties had a hand in how to manage budgets.

    • Marc P.

      Ah, yes, “safe” private investments…you mean like the stock market in 1929? Or the stock market crash in 2007???

      Sorry, many people (myself included) LOST half or more of their 401 (k)s, and those are in Money Market accoints, about as “safe” as you can get (except tor TREASURY BONDS, which is what the SSA Trust fund s repaid with). The people who were in the actual stock market actually took a bigger bath – except of course, the hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and corporate CEOs; they made out just fine.

      That’s the reason Social Security was created; in order to ensure we (the average person) would have SOMETHING at least to keep us off the street in our old age. It’s invested and kept safe for ALL people, not just those who are well off or comfortable enough to be able to accumulate enough to save for a decent retirement. As I’m sure you’re aware, most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, most are in debt and can’t even get out, and most of us are unable to save even for emergencies, and certainly not for retirement.

  7. Lorraine

    Lyndon B Johnson, back in 60’s started tapping into the social security funds to use for other government expenses, thereby stealing social security funds from all of us who paid into it. When are those funds going to be paid back to the social security fund and WHEN is the government going to stop using ss money for government expenses OTHER THAN STRICKLY SOCIAL SECURITY, FOR WHICH IT IS INTENDED.

    • Tom

      This is not partisan. Every president has done this. And Congress was entirely complicit…again both parties. The money invested by SSA in Treasury bills was not kept off budget allowing politicians to claim a smaller deficit than really existed. Since the money was not kept separate, it created a huge set of IOUs. Think of Harry and Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber when they spent the stolen loot and put IOUs in the case. Take a pat on the back for voting for Harry and Lloyd in every election since 1964. After 60 years that horse left the barn a long, long time ago.

      • Dr E.

        taking money from SS and Medicare is how Bill Clinton claimed a surplus

        Dr Eli Edith

    • AKA

      It was borrowed and paid back with Treasury notes, no one stole anything.

      • Lilly

        Paid back with Treasury notes? And what backs the Treasury notes.? It’s called the D.C. Shuffle -a nifty little dance that originated in Congress. The lyrics are good and the tune is catchy and you never feel yourself being fleeced.

  8. Jacqueline W.

    So the bottom line is:
    A) Take SS sooner – receive less $$ per month but more $$ over the course of your life.
    B) Take SS later – receive more $$ per month and less $$ over the course of your life.
    Since there is no guarantee as to one’s mortality, I say – stay in the middle. I am 67 yrs old, newly retired and receiving a pension. I have opted to start receiving SS at age 68 which will give me a descent increase to my pension income (about $2,600/mo).

  9. Dena F.

    I think you should mention two things: if you take retirement at 62 instead age 70 you collect 8 years of benefits – if you live so long that was a bad decision after you reach 82 and if you die sooner you have collected more and if you die before 70 you would have collected nothing that you had put in. The other point I am asking you to explain–I should have taken on my husband’s benefits first and no one told me about that–it is a little known option.

    • Gertrude P.

      My husband died in 2010. I am having a hard time since. I get some money on my own earnings, but what about all he paid in . Who took that money? I am 77 years old now and in a senior center which is very expensive,

      • kathy O.

        I believe you can either continue to receive your benefits or file for his (and lose yours) . Check with you local SS office to see which amount is higher….

        • Patti

          Social Security will not tell you anything that is to your benefit. They should not encourage people to take benefits at 62. You get alot less than if you wait for full retirement age. Hang on until 70 if you can and the benefits are better. They and the government (regardless of party) do not care that most people do not have a back up retirement and that SS is all they will have for retirement. After all they don’t depend on it, their retirement system is separate and different, gouging the taxpayers like a knife in the back.

          • Ray F.

            Hi Patti. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. If a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or at any time prior to their full retirement age, their benefit amount is reduced. In the other hand, you earn Delayed Retirement Credits when and if you delay getting your benefit up until age 70. To help individuals plan for the future, we ask them to use our Retirement Planner. Also, we ask them to create a my Social Security account. With a personal my Social Security account, individuals can review and verify their earnings, get their Social Security Statement, and much more. We hope this information helps!

      • Aloha G.

        Do you have a family member or someone who can help you navigate the system? Sometimes community centers or cities will have a case manager or social worker who serves seniors. You may be eligible to receive your husband’s benefit instead of your own. Also, your senior living facility may not like this but maybe it is time to find a less expensive place to live.

      • Ray F.

        Hello Ms. Petroske. Sometimes, a person may be eligible to more than one benefit at the same time. For example, a person may be entitled as a retired worker on his or her own record and as a spouse or a widow on another record. Under current law, a person’s benefit amount can never exceed the highest single benefit amount to which that person is entitled. In your case, it is likely that you are receiving the highest benefit amount that you’re entitled to. For more information and to speak to one of our representatives, call our toll free number 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks!

    • Mike

      Dena, that is a horribly convoluted explanation, can you clear it up please?

      • Tom

        What she is saying is that everyone who files for retirement benefits has a choice of taking a reduction in the amount for claiming it early and before the full retirement age (FRA), currently age 66, or delaying until as late as age 70. Once you reach age 66 you can obtain an additional 2/3% per month until age 70 in the monthly amount through the receipt of delayed retirement benefits (32% total). So there is a wide range of choice. If you wait to file, you are gambling that you will outlive the breakeven point where under either choice of earliest or latest, you would have accumulated the same total amount of benefits paid. There are other aspects that are individual: do you have other retirement income, how will your taxes be affected, etc.

        The rule about starting as a spouse and then switching to your highest retirement amount at 70 depends on certain factors. You have to wait until your FRA to file as a spouse. Then you wait until age 70 to file for your own benefits. You cannot file for one or the other before your FRA otherwise “deemed filing” applies and you only get the higher of the two.

        Congress pulled these options away in 2015 as it was not the original intent. Being eligible as a spouse was supposed to occur because your own earnings were too low to result in a higher amount. So the loophole was closed. If you turn 62 in 2016 or later, you can only get the higher of the two regardless of your age. In addition, if your spouse suspended his/her own retirement checks to make you eligible, any month he/she does not collect a payment you don’t either. Senator Schumer once said that the SS system was not designed to be a huge ATM. That included people who collect their benefits, collect interest or investment gains and then pay back SSA, keeping all the interest or other gains. You cannot withdraw after one year of receiving retirement benefits any more. Only 3-4% of the population can afford to manipulate these entitlements, taking money out of a system that is running low on assets. That was unfair to the other 96% of recipients dependent on the system for their main retirement income. To a minority of recipients it seems unfair, but that ignores the bigger picture of the larger pool of recipients, where it was the right thing to do.

        • Shirley

          There was an LA Times article about how the lives of many divorced women will be destroyed by changing this law. It was done quickly and quietly before the election.

          • Aloha G.

            It was done because it was not fair.

          • Kay B.

            Shirley-how can I get my hands on this article? I am divorced and need all the help I can get. Thank you

          • Ray F.

            Section 831 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, made some changes to Social Security’s laws about claiming retirement and spousal benefits. See “What do the Recent Social Security Claiming Changes Mean for Me” for more information.

          • Hope F.

            Kay B, you can only receive benefits off of an ex- spouses record under certain circumstances.

            If You Are Divorced-

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your comment Dena. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to start receiving retirement benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. If you have specific questions, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and speak with one of our representatives.

      • Kevin

        What if you stop working at age 62 but want 2 hold off on filing until your 64 are older is there any penalty

        • Ray F.

          Hi Kevin. There is no penalty if you want to delay your benefits until age 64. For Retirement Benefits, we use the individual’s highest 35 years of earnings, to compute his or her monthly benefit amount. As you know, you can start receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, but if you decide to get benefits before your full retirement age, they will be reduced. In the other hand, starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits. You may find our Early or Late Retirement Calculator helpful. Happy planning!

  10. Kathy G.

    Any word on the HR 711 current Legislative session to repeal the WEP ?

    • AKA

      No, and that’s going nowhere fast.

      • leroy

        i was told the person in a married couple who makes the least should retire first at age 62 is this true

    • Ray F.

      Hi Kathy. The Windfall Elimination Provision or WEP is still in effect, and we have not received any reports of changes to this law. A pension based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, Federal civil service and some State or local government agencies, such as police officers and some teachers), may cause the amount of your Social Security benefit to be reduced. Your Social Security benefit can be reduced based on one of two provisions: The Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.

Comments are closed.